The 7-Question Rules Audit

My first visit ever to Austin, Texas. November 10. I am on the podium as one of the speakers to address the International Association of Drilling Contractors' (IADC) 2011 annual general meeting. As I listen to them and to other speakers I realize that these guys are laser-beam focused on their speciality and their industry. I wonder whether they have any interests at all beyond drilling for oil and gas? I begin to panic; I don't know anything about oil drilling! What could I teach them? I quickly become convinced that the speech I prepared was irrelevant to them. I have to create a new speech...and I only have minutes to do so. I go deep inside myself to question why I felt so disturbed by the polished keynote address given by the Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Dr. Michael R. Bromwich. He outlined the quick progress his bureau has made in streamlining and strengthening its oversight of new and existing drilling operations since last year's Deepwater Horizon blow-out and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing disturbing about that! Then it struck me. It was his usage of the phrase more than once: "we are bolstering the regulatory regime" that governs the drilling industry. Now every civilized society needs an effective and fair regulatory system to oversee its activities so why was I reacting so negatively to that phrase? I began to think beyond the oil drilling industry and realized that the government did exactly that after the 2008 financial blowout and spill - it bolstered the regulatory regime that governs financial institutions in the same way as it did to corporate governance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 after the the Enron and WorldCom blowouts and spills. The need for governments to constantly ratchet up the regulatory regime of one industry after another with all the attendant bureaucratic outcomes of over-regulation, says a whole lot about our values as a society. Let's get back to safety and Dr. Bromwich's speech. I reflected for a moment on the largest and one of the most effective groups of safety officers in the world: parents. Some parents do weird things and some are negligent. But by and large parents are a superb group of safety officers, who care for their charges day in and day out, year after year. They are not paid to care for their children and are not directly accountable to anyone. Their activities are hardly regulated at all. They are not governed by prescribed procedures and no one monitors and manages them. Yet, as a group, they have an astonishingly impressive safety record. The reason is simply because they care; people who care don't need to be regulated. Regulation is society's answer to people who don't care about those for whom they are responsible. My speech was taking shape! Government's job is to step in with regulations when industries blow out. However, industry's job is to take a deep look inside itself and ask whether it is cultivating cultures that care or cultures that simply want as much as possible for as little as possible. This is a question that every organizational leader should be asking: Do I need to govern my employees with cumbersome procedures or can I inspire them to care enough about the purpose for which we work and the values by which we live? Try this 7-question"rules audit" to review the reasons and the needs for many of the regulations that might be stifling your organization's spirit. Ask:
  1. Why was this rule first introduced?
  2. Is that reason still applicable?
  3. What would happen if we removed this rule?
  4. Is the rule a substitute for poor leadership?
  5. If people were inspired to care, would this rule still be needed?
  6. Are our people inspired to care?
  7. What can we be doing to inspire them to care rather than just to comply?
Prune the rule book and lead with purpose, principles and values instead.
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