It is the purpose of being compliant that counts


Life is easy, if one can always work according to the 'book'. Whatever the outcome, one can always hide behind the implemented rules. This reasoning is getting more and more resistance at one hand, while we still continue to ask for proof and measure that one follows 'the right way'... 

An excellent example are the debates taking place in parliament about executing the law to the letter and its consequences, which in some cases, as we all witnessed, are dramatic. The pressure is on to change the way of working and work according to the purpose of the law, why the law was made in the first place. However, I am afraid this change will not be done overnight.

In your life as a manager you face the same balancing act. At one hand you need to address compliancy to all sort of internal regulation, but at the other hand you need to get the work done. And sometimes these two worlds collide. At that point you need to take a firm decision how to proceed.

Obviously, you can follow the book, but what if the outcome would be the same as in the saying 'operation successful, but patient died'?

In my view one of your objectives in life is ongoingly judging the purpose of internal ruling, compliance, versus the goal or objective you need to achieve.

I can imagine situations that you need to deviate from being compliant because the particular implemented ruling you have to deal with, was never meant to be applicable to the situation you face.

The downside is obvious. You are not compliant on all points. Is that an issue? I would say, certainly not! The big but, however, is that you need to be very secure in your judgement and preferably create written proof of the deviation and reasoning behind it.

Of course you could take this to higher management for approval in advance. Although I do not advocate insubordination, I need to caution you, that some questions should never be asked. Because of your ask, suddenly your manager is the one that is challenged to become non-compliant instead of you. Therefore, managers of managers tend to ask more questions first, in order to be very, very sure, they can defend a non-compliance to their management. A tedious, time consuming and sometimes frustrating effort.

It is much better that your management trusts your judgement if a deviation to the rule is justified. In that way your management stays away from the need to understand enough to justify and be responsible for the deviation themselves.

If it comes to the question of your management why you decided to deviate, your strong opinion of doing the right thing should do the job.

Of course, there is always a chance that your decision was challenged and you need to admit your decision was wrong. For example because your view was too narrow or you simply did no oversee all the consequences. In that case I believe the rule applies, it's better to ask forgiveness than permission... And subsequently learn from this event!

As a manager you always need to balance out internal ruling and achieving outcome. Of course there is more to making your judgements than this. But if we focus purely on this topic, I am convinced 'the right way' will sometimes push you to look at ruling for its purpose rather than for its actual implementation...

Fred Bosch - About Management and more - All rights reserved 2019-2022