It was only a statement, but it took my breath away.
One of those "Archimedes jump-out-of-the-bath-and-run-naked-down-the-street Eureka moments." You know the kind I mean. You must have had them.
They are the times when you read or hear something that is absolutely new to you and yet you feel it is something that you have always known. The "Yes, of course!" instances of pure inspiration, that leave you wondering, "Why did I never see that before?"
So what was it that had this effect on me? It was a statement by Roy H Williams that, "Rules are for people whose minds are too small to understand the principles behind them."
You have to agree that is a pretty powerful statement. Especially when you start putting some context to it.
I am sure that for you, as it is for me, the most obvious context is the business one. How much do you have to rely on rules and red tape to get things running smoothly in your organisation? Of course no one can blame you for that. Ever since you started out you have learned that a manager is responsible for safeguarding the organisation's operations. You have a duty to ensure that you safeguard and maintain assets and use resources properly - productively, efficiently and effectively. And of course, this underpins the whole command and control management system.
And you rely on rules, regulations and red tape to maintain this.
So, just pause for a second and ask yourself, if Roy Williams is right, are you perhaps guilty of spreading small-mindedness? Do you implicitly think your people are small-minded? And, if you do, does this not mean that you are possibly encouraging and endorsing small-minded thinking?
Of course this is "just the way things are." You would have to be one of an exceptional minority not to have fallen into this trap. But what are the consequences for your organisation? They have to be negative. So now that you know better you are obliged to do something to change things.
The beauty of the statement, though, is that it also gives you the answer - the way to stop falling into the trap and following the familiar and to break out of the shackles and transform performance. To get rid of the rules, regulations and red tape you simply have to ensure that your people "understand the principles."
Of course you have to define what those are yourself, but I don't think it can be all that difficult, do you? After all, it is just a question of identifying the purpose of your organisation and how you propose to fulfil it. But, I am sure you are already ahead of me. After all, you can no doubt also see the blindingly obvious - that eliminating the rules, regulation and red-tape will automatically enhance employee engagement and transform performance.
Just remember though, that if you can create the employee ownership to lock in that employee engagement you will ensure that there is universal understanding of those principles. Consequently, you can secure adherence to them and so practically guarantee improved performance with a better bottom-line and sustained success.