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@Rich: You just made the case for the "One Minute Manager." Follow the steps, document, and you have an ongoing, day by day performance review that actually means something.

Tim Keely

Hi Bob,

There are several types of forums for both proposing and voting on ideas. Stanford used when collecting information for their web site.

Juan Carlos Pinedo

Professor Sutton, I have always enjoyed to read your notes, or listen what you have to say, and reading this note, it made me thinking about a class I just took and dropped already at Harvard. I’m an immigrant from Venezuela, and lived in the USA for 18 years. It was a dream for me to go to Harvard, and in this case, to take more English classes. In the first 2 classes I felt I spent more time “learning” the philosophy, guidelines and rules of Harvard than any valuable English lesson. I felt constrained in the environment, at least, for now. And, although I’m planning to go back, I will learn first all the rules there, and also, what they mean about “Business of Education”. I believe in rules, guidelines, but I’m an adult taking responsibilities of my actions. Finally, I want to give some credits to Thomas’s comment.


Instead of asking about a contest, how about asking "What stupid rules does your company have?" I'd love to hear some of the stupid rule examples. Here, I'll go first:

I once worked for a bank IT organization. They would not allow you to work from home, even if you were sick, or you had to care for a sick child. So instead of getting some productivity for the day's pay, they chose to get none. Then to make it even better, they penalized you during your review for having sick days!

I'd love to hear some other examples!

Colin Ferguson

This topic is huge and needs to be addressed. The craziness with which we have subjected ourselves as humans with all of our rules, regulations, bylaws, codes, standards and legislation, in many ways to supposedly manage risk, are choking us to death instead. Time to reread the parable about the Tower of Babel. Is our quest for a zero risk environment a pie-in the sky ideal that is actually making things worse. It is a very unelegant solution to life's problems. Keep the discussion going.


Elad Sherf

Great idea. But why stop at that... why not take it into the next level. Rules are part of the problem of our modern world organizations. And most of them have to much... the need to flexible and creative is not only relevant for thinking about strategic options and market competition. We need to take the same process inside the organizations and aspire to change the world of management. The rules are one good step in that direction. See more on this post and on related subjects here:
Thank you for sharing this.

Carol Murchie

This makes me think of the episode of the British comedy series "As Time Goes By" where there's a village custom of an elderly woman, Mrs. Twillit, who sits and watches the flower arrangements on someone's wedding day, along with doing a little chant about how "not one petal has dropped". When a confounded Londoner asks why this is done, one of the locals casually replies, "Nobody knows."

Little rituals and nonsense rules are those that outlive the institutional memory. You're on your way to a good candidate if no one can think of why the rule exists in the first place.

Interesting exercise, any time a fresh perspective is invoked. But even absent such an activity, it pays to remember that most organizational rules are designed to defeat the timid. Be bold, not reckless.


Rules and policies live on long after their usefulness.

I love the fable of the woman who always cuts the ends off the ham when roasting it.


I always enjoy your posts, Bob, but something is starting to dawn on me. I appreciate your acknowledgement of my (and others') concern about branding "passholes". Still, you went right ahead and suggested it as fresh urban slang.

Next, you asked us to reflect on "how much we hate performance reviews", and now whether we might be subject to "stupid rules". While it's true that organizations contain "stupid" things we "hate", including of course "assholes", I wonder if it is really a good idea to introduce this language (I feel like such a prude!) into the popular management idiom. Is this really a way to "build a civilized workplace"?

It will always be part of our organizational slang, but does it work as policy talk and organizational theory?

It's sort of the inverted image of "positive organization scholarship", isn't it? And let me say that I'm not proposing a vocabulary that replaces all the negatively laden language with something more positive (where we all "do what comes naturally" among "friends", for example, and "love" talking to our bosses.)

But whatever happened to "colleagues" who were sometimes "difficult" and rules that were sometimes a bit "arbitrary" but ultimately better than nothing?

The problem is that many many rules, even necessary ones, really ARE stupid. And many coworkers, and sometimes indispensable ones, are assholes. And I'm just not sure that calling them that is the best way to live with them if we want to keep it civil.

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