Company policy as “scar tissue” (from REWORK)

REWORK (Photo credit: Jake Mates)

I just finished digesting Fried and Hansson’s book “Rework”, published in 2010. Fried and Hansson are the founders of 37Signals, and their book is a nice little gem of short (1 to 2 page) thoughts and ideas about how to conduct business (more geared to small business and owner/operated businesses than the Fortune 500 type). It is a really quick read (a couple of hours will have you easily through the whole thing) and probably every reader can find at least a couple of nuggets that they can take action on. This gem stood out on page 260 – their take on company policy:

“Policies are organizational scar tissue. They are codified overreations to situations that are unlikely to happen again. They are collective punishment for the misdeeds of an individual. This is how bureaucracies are born. No one sets out to create a bureaucracy. They sneak up on companies slowly. They are created one policy — one scar — at a time. So don’t scar on the first cut. Don’t create a policy because one person did something wrong once. Policies are only meant for situations that come up over and over again.”

For me, this was a great take-away from the book, and an analogy that I will most certainly use in my ongoing business consulting work.  Thanks, Jason and David!


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