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Signs You’re A Bad Manager #2: Policy Over Results

July 22, 2015

“Paul, I’ve changed your extension.”

“What, on my desk phone?”

“Yeah, it had a 614 area code. It will not advertise as an 801 number.”

“But people know that 614 number.”

“Oh, you can still receive calls at either number. Just when you make a call it will show as coming from 801.”

“Okay, why after 2 years did you change it?”

“Company policy is out going call show 801.”

Paul’s manager is a bad manager. His first problem is that he changed Paul’s extension without telling him, without even discussing it. But, the worse problem is that his sole reason was “policy.” Policy should exist to support results. “We’ve always done it that way” is a cop out. It’s a reason to stop thinking and let someone years ago do your thinking for you.

A young couple had recently been married. The wife went to cook a roast. Before putting it in the oven, she cut off and threw away the ends.

“Why did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Cut off the ends and throw them away.”

“I don’t know. It’s just the way my mom taught me.”

“Let’s call mom and ask her.”

“Hello, Mom? Why did you always cut off the ends of the roast before you cooked it?”

“I don’t know. It’s the way grandma showed me to cook roast. Try calling your grandmother.”

“Hello, Grandma? Why did you cut the ends of the roast off before cooking it?”

“Well, our pan was very small and it’s the only way I could make it fit.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to policy. I’m spending this week with eight boys and three leaders at a boy scout camp. We have plenty of policies.

– Always stay in groups of two

– No using an axe within arm’s reach of another person

– The patrol that doesn’t cook, does cleanup

But, each of these policies has a reason behind it.

– We are camping in the remote mountains in the desert. A boy could get lost and it would take days to find him. Two is harder to lose than one.

– Boys and axes are not always a good combination.

– Dividing the work keeps everyone involved and makes sure that a single person or group doesn’t have to do all the work.

We rigidly enforce these policies. There is another policy that says:

– Boys must wear uniforms to the twice daily flag ceremony

This is a rule or a policy. We suggest our boys follow it. If they show up without their uniform, they go to the flag ceremony anyway.

So, if policy is not the guiding principle for your organization, what is?


I interviewed for a Project Manager position a few years ago. Project Management program has multiple approaches to how to run a project. I was asked in the interview.

“Is there a single right way to approach project management?”

“Yes, whichever way gets the project completed on time, on budget with satisfied stakeholders.”

Your company has a purpose. You have something that you make, or do, or sell. I’m guessing that your country is not in business to make policies. If the policies are not providing value, they are hurting your business.

As a manager, focus on results. Get your team to focus on the purpose behind the policies. If you find yourself answering a question with “Well, because that’s our policy” consider changing your answer

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