Thursday, September 3, 2009

Even Grown-Ups Like Rules

I jumped the gun today, and was gently taken to task for it. The whole episode unfolded, quietly and without real consequence, over email. At the end, my correspondent offered an apology for "staying with the process" and that was the first time I felt some urgency to respond. Because staying with the process keeps the wheels running. I love people who follow a process.

I don't want to hear about Mussolini and trains. I am not talking about "just following orders". It's about respect and order and yes, I suppose, about control. But control with the goal of accomplishing an agenda - an agenda that is mutually agreed upon by those involved.

One of my earliest memories of G'ma is watching her leave the house for a PTA Meeting with Roberts' Rules of Order, in a red binding with gold letters, tucked securely under her arm as she bent to kiss me good-night. I loved the notion that there was actually a book with rules that told you what to do. I really wondered why nobody had given it to me before I went to school; had I been absent that day?

As I began to serve on Boards, my appreciation of the little book swelled to adulation. No, you can't interrupt her in the middle of her presentation. Questions come when the Parliamentarian says they come, and, in a well-run meeting, no one is very upset if they have to wait. Everyone understands what will happen and how it will happen and, even better, why it will happen.

The Big Cuter plays games which involve sets of rules upon rules which build upon each other and are completely dependent upon being followed in a strict order. Arguments are resolved by unraveling the rules, layer upon layer, step by step. The intricacy of the rules themselves is a great part of the allure of the game itself. They organize the process, and let you know how things should go.

One of the things I say with alarming regularity is "Policies and Procedures are your Friends". By the time we've reached our 6th or 7th or 8th decade, those of us who volunteer know that our own way is the best way and that the only way to get anything done is to do it yourself. Policies and Procedures keep us in our place.

We can create our own little fiefdoms, demanding the use of certain email addresses, insisting on deadlines and anything else that sounds reasonable. We can refuse to be bullied by some one who knows that doing your job her way will expedite everything. Just refer to the process.

As long as the expectations are published and can be followed the projects will get finished. On time. If people would just follow the procedures.

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