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The Value of Rules

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 06-28-10

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NCIS has been one of the most popular shows on television for years now. I generally don’t like TV crime dramas, but my wife has gotten me a bit into this one over time. The lead character is Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon. Gibbs has a number of rules. His team learns these rules as they go, usually after violating one of them unwittingly. Many of these would apply specifically to law enforcement. But some of my favorites that don’t include:

  • Rule #1: Never screw over your partner. You shouldn’t need a rule for this, but it is probably better to be sure.
  • Rule #3: Never believe what you’re told. Double check. This isn’t just about trust in law enforcement, but I believe also applies to problem solving and improvement. Dig deeper, and understand what is truly happening.
  • Rule #15: Always work as a team. Enough said.
  • Rule #45: Clean up your mess. Because, after all, who should be doing this for you.
  • and of course, Rule #13: Never, ever involve lawyers. Because after all, don’t we have enough of that.

Rules have value. They provide guidance. They provide empowerment. They provide memory and learning.

Guidance and empowerment is provided because rules create a corridor of what’s OK and not OK. They help people make their decisions consistently with others, but without hamstringing them by following a narrow script. Rules should not be rigid; they should be guiding. Rules should not be unbreakable; they should bend consciously.

I think the most significant value of rules is that they provide memory through learning. If you engage in reflection, it’s intention is to learn from the past (or recent past) in order to improve your action in the future. I was recently reminding of this while considering an investment opportunity. Based on experience, I’ve developed some of my own rules. A few of these rules involve what makes a good investment. Without getting into specifics (to protect the innocent), this opportunity would violate one of my rules. I could still go ahead. No one could force me to follow my own rules. And I considered the possibility. However, this rule was based on my experience of what contributes to success and to failure. It is based on my experience and my learning. The rule allowed my the opportunity to draw upon those experiences more effectively. I decided to pass. That doesn’t mean it is the right decision, but it the process of how the rules helped me connect my decision making to my experience.

Do you have rules? How do you use them?


Comments

  • My rule is not to listen to consultants 🙂 Just kidding. That was too easy 🙂

    My rule is to make sure my head and gut are aligned with the decision. If not, it never seems to work out as well as it could. When I follow just my head, I seem to get knee deep into something that is working but my heart isn’t in so it isn’t as successful as it could be. If I follow my gut, then I usually enjoy it but the results aren’t ever their like I would like them to be. But when I follow my head and gut, everything seems to usually line up and I get the results while enjoying it.

    Matt Wrye June 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm
  • My rule is not to listen to consultants 🙂 Just kidding. That was too easy 🙂

    My rule is to make sure my head and gut are aligned with the decision. If not, it never seems to work out as well as it could. When I follow just my head, I seem to get knee deep into something that is working but my heart isn’t in so it isn’t as successful as it could be. If I follow my gut, then I usually enjoy it but the results aren’t ever their like I would like them to be. But when I follow my head and gut, everything seems to usually line up and I get the results while enjoying it.

    Matt Wrye June 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm
  • My rule is not to listen to consultants 🙂 Just kidding. That was too easy 🙂

    My rule is to make sure my head and gut are aligned with the decision. If not, it never seems to work out as well as it could. When I follow just my head, I seem to get knee deep into something that is working but my heart isn’t in so it isn’t as successful as it could be. If I follow my gut, then I usually enjoy it but the results aren’t ever their like I would like them to be. But when I follow my head and gut, everything seems to usually line up and I get the results while enjoying it.

    Matt Wrye June 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm
  • This is timely! We just had a reorganization in our company and I am in the middle of developing Mission, Vision, and Goals for my new team. I also started compiling a list of Team Values, but was having trouble figuring out how to present them to my team. Then I read this article. (My husband and I watch NCIS too and enjoy the Gibbs’ rules.) Ah, ha! I will convert my Team Values into Team Rules – guiding, sometime flexible, and an open transparent way of holding everyone on the team accountable to the same standards:

    Always put quality over quantity.
    Never “band aid” a problem. Drive all problems to root cause identification and fix them for good.
    Never be satisfied with the way things are. Seek out ways to improve all aspects of your job.
    Eliminate processes that don’t add value to the product or for the customer.
    Always show respect to our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Be open and transparent with our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Save the company money wherever you can.
    Never lie or attempt to cover up the truth.
    Admit when you are in over your head and need help.
    Be accountable for your responsibilities from the beginning to the end. Own it.
    Be flexible when changes come along.
    Be dedicated to our team and to the company.
    Give your team members specific feedback and give it often, both the good and the bad.
    Be open to feedback.
    Be humble.
    Do not fixate on your personal weaknesses. Fixate on and pursue your strengths.
    Never attempt to resolve a disagreement or confront someone over email, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
    First state the facts and then state your opinion.
    Call out anyone on our team, including your boss, who breaks a rule.

    Thanks, Jamie!

    Alice July 2, 2010 at 1:05 am
  • This is timely! We just had a reorganization in our company and I am in the middle of developing Mission, Vision, and Goals for my new team. I also started compiling a list of Team Values, but was having trouble figuring out how to present them to my team. Then I read this article. (My husband and I watch NCIS too and enjoy the Gibbs’ rules.) Ah, ha! I will convert my Team Values into Team Rules – guiding, sometime flexible, and an open transparent way of holding everyone on the team accountable to the same standards:

    Always put quality over quantity.
    Never “band aid” a problem. Drive all problems to root cause identification and fix them for good.
    Never be satisfied with the way things are. Seek out ways to improve all aspects of your job.
    Eliminate processes that don’t add value to the product or for the customer.
    Always show respect to our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Be open and transparent with our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Save the company money wherever you can.
    Never lie or attempt to cover up the truth.
    Admit when you are in over your head and need help.
    Be accountable for your responsibilities from the beginning to the end. Own it.
    Be flexible when changes come along.
    Be dedicated to our team and to the company.
    Give your team members specific feedback and give it often, both the good and the bad.
    Be open to feedback.
    Be humble.
    Do not fixate on your personal weaknesses. Fixate on and pursue your strengths.
    Never attempt to resolve a disagreement or confront someone over email, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
    First state the facts and then state your opinion.
    Call out anyone on our team, including your boss, who breaks a rule.

    Thanks, Jamie!

    Alice July 2, 2010 at 1:05 am
  • This is timely! We just had a reorganization in our company and I am in the middle of developing Mission, Vision, and Goals for my new team. I also started compiling a list of Team Values, but was having trouble figuring out how to present them to my team. Then I read this article. (My husband and I watch NCIS too and enjoy the Gibbs’ rules.) Ah, ha! I will convert my Team Values into Team Rules – guiding, sometime flexible, and an open transparent way of holding everyone on the team accountable to the same standards:

    Always put quality over quantity.
    Never “band aid” a problem. Drive all problems to root cause identification and fix them for good.
    Never be satisfied with the way things are. Seek out ways to improve all aspects of your job.
    Eliminate processes that don’t add value to the product or for the customer.
    Always show respect to our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Be open and transparent with our team, our customers, and our suppliers – both internal and external.
    Save the company money wherever you can.
    Never lie or attempt to cover up the truth.
    Admit when you are in over your head and need help.
    Be accountable for your responsibilities from the beginning to the end. Own it.
    Be flexible when changes come along.
    Be dedicated to our team and to the company.
    Give your team members specific feedback and give it often, both the good and the bad.
    Be open to feedback.
    Be humble.
    Do not fixate on your personal weaknesses. Fixate on and pursue your strengths.
    Never attempt to resolve a disagreement or confront someone over email, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
    First state the facts and then state your opinion.
    Call out anyone on our team, including your boss, who breaks a rule.

    Thanks, Jamie!

    Alice July 2, 2010 at 1:05 am
  • That’s great Alice. This is in fact codifying the behaviors you want to see in terms of rules. I like the first one, because so many indicators value quantity over quality, so we often need a push to counterbalance this.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh July 2, 2010 at 5:41 am
  • That’s great Alice. This is in fact codifying the behaviors you want to see in terms of rules. I like the first one, because so many indicators value quantity over quality, so we often need a push to counterbalance this.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh July 2, 2010 at 5:41 am
  • That’s great Alice. This is in fact codifying the behaviors you want to see in terms of rules. I like the first one, because so many indicators value quantity over quality, so we often need a push to counterbalance this.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh July 2, 2010 at 5:41 am