Jason Fried has a great post on the excellent Signal v Noise blog about policies as organizational scar tissue.
The second something goes wrong, the natural tendency is to create a policy. “Someone’s wearing shorts!? We need a dress code!” No, you don’t. You just need to tell John not to wear shorts again.
Policies are organizational scar tissue. They are codified overreactions to situations that are unlikely to happen again. They are collective punishment for the misdeeds of an individual.
This is how bureaucracies are born. No one sets out to create a bureaucracy. They sneak up on companies slowly. They are created one policy — one scar — at a time.
It is a beautiful post for 2 reasons. First, it explains nicely why so much of corporate policy doesn’t make sense to people who join years after their creation.
Second, it is as applicable in our lives as in our companies. We often tend to have strong reactions to negative stuff that happens in our lives. Many folks I’ve met over the years refuse to trust people because they were cheated once many years ago. Many parents, on the other hand, refuse to let their kids fail after their first experience with their kids suffering.
On the one hand, making a scar out of the cut feels like the right, safe thing to do.The trouble, however, is that by inoculating ourselves from the pain of a cut, we also stop all the beautiful stuff that follows. From making mistakes with trusting people, we hone our people judgment. By failing, kids learn to deal with adversity while parents learn to let go.
Don’t scar on the first cut.
Great advice – thank you, Jason.