POLICY – DO YOU CREATE ROBOTS?

Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violent civil dis-obedience, enabled India to achieve independence. He once said, “A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good, it has … to be pursued with apostolic zeal.” 

Policies are designed to influence all major decisions and actions, and all activities take place within policy boundaries. Policies, therefore, are powerful instruments. Well articulated and communicated policy is fundamental to nurturing an innovative culture and an agile organisation. 

Often, however, the intent of the policy is never spelt out and it can therefore be followed to the letter. This, in turn, can result in an idiotic outcome, never intended by the policy maker.

 

To illustrate, consider the following: 

A company writes a policy that essentially says “Inventories will be never more than two weeks of stock issues.” The Inventory Manager gets hold of the policy and realizes he is holding six weeks supplies of certain items of stock. Keen to comply, he zealously and robotically runs down inventories so that no item is held in his stores any longer than two weeks. Unfortunately, the supply chain for some of these items takes about six weeks to deliver to store. Consequently, after two weeks he has stock run-outs. The Customers, the Sales team, and the Operations Manager are all screaming. The Suppliers are saying ‘not our problem’. The Inventory Manager is well and truly ‘in the hurt locker’. 

Yes – it’s an illustration. You’re thinking that no-one could possibly do something so dumb that creates so much strife! Really? Sometimes it’s a mis-understanding, a lack of training, fear, bowing to perceived deity or a combination of such factors. Whatever the reason(s), the lack of a principles-based communicated policy certainly lays the ground for a potential disaster.

 

But what if the policy had been couched in terms of the underlying business requirements – the underpinning principles? For example: 

“Whilst reducing costs wherever reasonably possible is important, meeting customer expectations is paramount. Recognising these principles, wherever the supply chain can be configured to permit, Inventories should not be more than two weeks of stock issues.” 

This example policy has a much better chance of delivering sensible outcomes for everyone involved. Why – that’s the very point – why are we doing this? Understanding why something is policy is a fundamental tenet of good policy. 

Best practice policy is principles-based which encourages thinking and the exercising of initiative to achieve sensible enterprise outcomes. Notwithstanding, poorly articulated black and white policy can lead to undesirable outcomes. 

How do you draft policies to avoid the creation robots reliably delivering bad outcomes? Tell people the whys. If your people understand the whys and they are met by different circumstances, they are better prepared to meet challenges in sensible ways by applying the underpinning principles. 

As Mahatma Gandhi also said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Related Blogs:

INNOVATION - HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE COST OF STANDING STILL?

HOW DO YOU CLIMB A MOUNTAIN THAT LOOKS TOO TALL TO CONQUER?

DOES ‘ONE SIZE’ REALLY EVER ‘FIT ALL’?

WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING WITHOUT AN ASSET REGISTER FOR 100 YEARS?

DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE CODES THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE?

 

 

  • 2016-02-02 10:26:10
  • Mark Spicer
  • Policy, Effectiveness and Efficiency, Innovation, Continuous Improvement, Leadership