Countless times over the years I have asked diverse groups of people to reflect very carefully on their work within organizations and to make a simple balance sheet. How much time, energy, and ingenuity did they spend obeying senseless rules and procedures that had little to do with the results they were expected to achieve? How much did they devote to circumventing those rules and procedures in order to do something productive with the remainder? How much was wasted interpreting such rules and enforcing them on others? How much time and talent did they simply withhold due to frustration and futility? It’s a rare person who arrives at a sum less than 50 percent. Eighty is not uncommon.1
… people with power to write and enforce rules rarely spend much time following them.2
Rules and regulations, laws and contracts, can never replace clarity of shared purpose and clear, deeply held principles about conduct in pursuit of that purpose.3
Heaven is purpose, principle, and people. Purgatory is paper and procedure. Hell is rule and regulation.4
Far too much ingenuity, effort, and intelligence go into circumventing the mindless, sticky web of rules and regulations by which people are needlessly bound.5
1 Dee Hock, One From Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization, (Berrett-Koehler, 2005), p. 34.
2 Ibid., p. 35.
3 Ibid., p. 67.
4 Ibid., p. 115.
5 Ibid., p. 227