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Are your Rules Keeping Your Staff from Thinking?
1 October 2007, by , in Rants and Kudos, No comments

Going through security at the airport the other day, I dutifully took my shoes off, pulled my laptop out of my briefcase, and placed my carry on luggage on the x-ray belt. At the last moment I remembered my "liquids" and pulled them from my carry on. Being the wise traveler that I am, I had already put my three liquid containers (toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant) into a clear plastic ziplock baggie.

The TSA agent picked up my plastic bag, carefully inspected the contents, and then explained to me that the baggie I had put the three items in was too large. She gave me an "approved" baggie and I moved my three items from the "too big" baggie into the approved baggie.

Not three minutes prior, the overhead recording had explained to me the 3-1-1 rule. No item more than three ounces, in one one-quart baggie. This was done, the recording explained, to limit the number of items I could put in one baggie.

Mind you, my "oversized" baggie had exactly three items in it (all under three ounces). Yet I'm required to move the items to an approved size baggie? Why?

The simple fact is, the TSA agent was given rules, and she was following the rules. But either she didn't understand the purpose of the rules, understood the rules and chose to enforce them for no reason, or had been told to never, ever, ever bend the rules. In any case, she was completely disempowered. Bag is too big? Replace it, regardless of why we have that rule in the first place.

I realize this is a small thing, but look around your organization and ask yourself: Does your staff understand the reasoning behind your business rules? Or are they busily following rules that hamper customer satisfaction, create more work than necessary, and generally disempower staff from making decisions?

Ritz-Carlton is famous for allowing any employee up to $2000 to resolve a customer's complaint, no questions asked. That's a lot of empowerment. And trust. Why don't you trust your employees that much?

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

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Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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