Drowning in policies? Focus on culture

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I have been editing a client’s policy manual. Too many of the policy manuals I have come across are over-long, over-complicated and unwieldy. Have you read yours lately? Does anybody?

The great temptation when writing policies is to put everything in there, avoid all ambiguity and ensure every circumstance is covered.

That is sound strategy for safety regulations and operating instructions. But it is a mistake to think the same applies or should apply to the people in our organisation. We cannot manage people via operating procedures. Every person is unique; each one must be engaged, encouraged, coaxed, reprimanded, motivated, led.

Growth and excellence do not come from following rules. That will only give us better rule keepers and, ultimately, a stagnating organisation. Organisations thrive through relationships, engagement, a culture of discovery, not through rule keepers.

Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg wrote in How Google Works:

‘Culture and success go hand in hand; if you don’t believe your own slogans you won’t get very far.’

Do you believe your slogans?
Does your team believe that you believe them?
Do they drive your decision making?
Or is it all down to the rules?

Create and nurture a culture not a rulebook.

Google’s Larry Page used to say, ‘Go talk to the engineers.’

Engaging with employees, motivating and encouraging them, is a much better strategy than: ‘Go check the policy.’


Contact Simply Communicate to discuss realigning your policies and training your leadership team.



Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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