Rules Should Not Command Foolish Decisions

No one can make a perfect decision. There are reasons:

  1. No one knows everything that might have an affect on the decision
  2. Not all of the things they don’t know can be known
  3. Some of the things they “know” are wrong.
  4. Some of the things they know are order dependent and the order in the future may be different.
  5. The external environment of the decision will not be constant

We should be okay with the idea that decisions are not perfect. That gives us some freedom to improve them later. Decisions that can change are far easier to live with. Perfect decisions are limiting and often the underlying fundamentals are no longer part of the process.

Rules are limiting in more ways than people intend. The city here has a bylaw that denies you the right to park on the street overnight during the winter. A friend recently received a ticket for doing so. It is a clear rule, but without the context of its purpose, it becomes a problem.

It’s purpose was to make it easier to remove cars that block snow removal. Perfectly reasonable. On the night in question, there was no snow removal required not was there any expectation of getting a snow fall. The officer who issued the citation was clearly within the rule but clearly outside contextual common sense.

When common sense rules lose connection with the founding context, it is incumbent on management to make sure people retain the reasoning and act on the reasoning instead of the rule. Strict rule-based policing leads to conflict with the citizens who are more context, purpose and outcome oriented. Conflict diminishes police credibility and in the long run hurts them. Credibility is important in their job.

The same idea relates to parenting and management. People respond to things that make sense and they respond negatively to things that are intrusive or irrational. Imposing rules is a delicate task. The usual guideline is things that are imposed are opposed.

Life is easier with less opposition and that can be achieved by keeping the rules in their context. As a bonus, contextual rules improve over time, while top down rules do not. Rules should adapt to new situations. 

The other life smoothing idea is have fewer rules.  Especially with children who have all the time they need to defy you. Have a few rules that you are willing to go all the way to enforce. Probably fewer than five. All the other things like wearing clean jeans, combing hair, eating healthy and remembering to thank Grandma for the birthday present have a way of sorting themselves out. The only error you can make is bailing them out when the consequences of a poor choice appears. Like when Grandma doesn’t send a check next year.

Life is better when it is simple.  Find ways to make it so.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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