Posts Tagged ‘rules’

Project Reality Check #11: Frame of Mind

by Gary Monti on March 1, 2011

“Everything is simple,” is one of my mantras. To hold true it depends upon two things. The first is greed, fear, rage, and ignorance are absent. The second is the right perspective, one’s frame of mind or point of view, is appropriate for the situation. Let’s take a look at the latter and how to establish a realistic point of view.

One Question

In line with “everything is simple,” one question is sufficient to determine what frame-of-mind or perspective is appropriate for a project. The question is,

“What happens when you follow the rules?”

There is a whole plethora of answers. They tend to fall into the following patterns:

  1. Things run like clockwork! When everyone in my group sticks to the rules and does what they are supposed to do then the work gets done and we can feel good at the end of the day.
  2. Reasonably well as long as our boss makes the right connections with the other bosses. We’ve been at this for a while and over time have accumulated a range of customers and products with different demands and requirements. We work it out, though, and keep the customer happy.
  3. It depends since some groups cooperate with us and others go their own way. We spend a lot of time “greasing the wheels” around here working to keep people connected to the project and stay on-task.
  4. Which rules are you talking about? The rules change from day-to-day and situation-to-situation. Oh, wait! They also change with who is in charge at any given time!  It puts a lot of stress on us in the trenches but we take pride in making things work out. Don’t get me wrong; it’s anything but perfect. We’ve had our share of snafus and paid dearly for them. But we learn and work to do better the next time.
  5. I honestly don’t know. This place is different now. I stick to the policies and procedures in our department and get along with those around me but we can’t predict how things will turn out. Some days are good, others aren’t. It’s wearing. You just can’t depend on things going like they used to.
  6. What rules? This place is a free-for-all. I am surprised we are still in business.


The frames-of-mind present are:

Simple for “1.” The rules are clear and concise and results are predictable. The methods work so a top-down approach to projects fits. The project needs primarily to be managed.

Complicated for “2.” There are multiple sets of rules present based on the history of the organization and adjustments are needed from product-to-product and client–to-client. Overall, though, no new demands are being made. A top-down approach still works.

Complex for “3.” And “4.” Work increasingly is getting done from the bottom-up. Solutions emerge from team members working across boundaries to establish day-to-day tactical connections that they hope will yield the desired strategic results. Facilitation would work here. Turn the workers loose to create the solution but hold them to the acceptance criteria. Failures are simply experiments that yielded unexpected results.

Chaotic applies to “5.” This is a dangerous situation since ups-and-downs occur for the organization but are unpredictable. People are putting in way too much effort in an attempt to get daily activities complete. Empowerment of employees to (re)build the organization works here. The leader’s focus is pointing to the goals that must be attained to survive and succeed. Honest, open feedback is critical and the encouragement of trust and building bonds among stakeholders and team members.

Random is at play with “6.” All signs of business intelligence have disappeared. It is just a matter of time before going out of business.  Do ANYTHING to get out of this state or just cancel the project and move on.

The Reality and the Challenge

The reality and challenge are the fact that all 6 frames-of-mind or some subset can be present on a given project. The goal, then, is to make sure the project terrain is gauged accordingly and the style(s) adapted are appropriate. In other words, you might be using top-down with a part of the project that is truly simple. A hands-off approach could be used with a part that has yet to have a solution emerge. Finally, scope may need to be cut with a third part of the project that is currently unrecoverable.

Remember, everything is simple (if you have the right frame of mind)

Tired of doing things you regret? Wonder why the behaviors continue even though they sabotage your position? Vacillate from submission to aggression when making business deals? Want to stop all this and just stay on your unique path? Wonder where the Hell that path is? Well this is where myth comes into play. Let’s see what you can do.

Specifically, in this blog we’ll circle back onto the first in this series and expand on the purpose of myth as well as set the stage for the next series of blogs dealing with personality and traits. Sounds like we’re going a long way from improving business performance. Bear with me – we’ll get there.

Three Levels of Truth

Some background is needed. There are three levels of truth:

  • The Unspeakable
  • Principles
  • Rules

The Unspeakable refers to the wonder of the universe and being a part of it. It fills your being and is so overwhelming words fail. Yet that is where we have the deepest most meaningful experiences. Think of that feeling you get after riveting an audience with a presentation that covers something much bigger than you – a presentation the preparation of which you disappeared into and then became the instrument through which the presentation was channeled. How would you describe that feeling? Words usually fail. That’s an example of the Unspeakable and participating in it.

Principles are needed because unless you are a hermit there’s the need to express the Unspeakable so you can communicate and make life richer through community. It’s an endeavor that is incomplete, flawed, and frustrating but one that relentlessly pushes from inside to do it anyway.

Principles are essentially a dim yet powerful reflection of the Unspeakable.  Music and poetry exist in this space as well. If you’d like a more engaging expression of this spend $0.99 at iTunes and get a copy of Billy Joel’s River of Dreams and click on this link to see the lyrics.

The Rules comprise the lowest level of truth and derive from Principles. While even further from the Unspeakable rules, when done right, reflect it sufficiently to conduct daily business. Think of a contract. There’s no such thing as a perfect, iron-clad contract because if there were one, it would trap the Unspeakable in a verbal box. The trick, though, is to create the best set of rules you can to support spending more time connected to the Unspeakable in the business community.

Symbols and Cymbals

Back to mythology. In the first blog of this series I talked about needing a personal mythology in order to make sense of life, especially major transitions. There’s another important function of myth – the reconnection with and discovery of what is rich, powerful, and beautiful within you. So, myth works both from the outside in and the inside out simultaneously.

That inward journey can be quite challenging. It’s the realm of symbols. The words “symbol” and “cymbal” have the same root, the Greek “sumballein” which means “to throw together.” Nothing nice and neat about it! Think of those crazy dreams that feel so real. But that is where the richness comes into play.

In business, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, etc., are typically tools for being analytical and precise. In other words, generating the rules. And as stated before those rules only get their meaning by being a reflection of the Principles which reflect the Unspeakable. (This argument refutes the idea this mythology stuff is a waste because it seems so soft or fuzzy and far removed from the Rules.) If this fails to occur rules are a trap. Run!

By going into your shadows and reclaiming the pieces of yourself that parents, teachers, society, bosses, etc., said were useless or detrimental a reunification and integration occurs which – voila – reestablish your connection with the Unspeakable. (See Nietzsche’s Camel, Lion, and Baby in the Mythology blog #5.) Then you can trust that your Rules are, indeed, a reflection of the Unspeakable. When you clang your personal cymbal there will be a joy right along with the professionalism that adds to life!

If you are trying to find your cymbal and want to make some noisy music send me an e-mail at or visit

Rules for the sake of Rules

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 3, 2009

rules sake rules“I am really sorry, sir. It doesn’t matter what you have to say about why you need this specific service because it is against our policy to provide this. I want to save you the time of going over why you need what you need as we simply cannot provide it.”

I was told this at a local Walgreens a few weeks ago.

All I could do was stare confoundedly at the store representative. I mean, what can you, the customer, really do when the provider tells you that they don’t even want to LISTEN TO YOU? You do what I did – stare confoundedly at them.

I have come across so many instances of this that I am led to believe this is no trivial matter or a one-off instance. This is a serious issue plaguing the customer service industry and if you think you are perhaps not impacted by this, well… then you are probably not in the business of making money. The solution to this issue, ironically, comes from within the company itself. All it takes, in most of the cases, is another “more helpful” representative of the company who simply and genuinely wants to “help” the customer. Even if they end up with the same result i.e. not being able to provide what the customer is after, they try and try and try until they exhaust all possible options. They don’t tell the customer that they don’t want to hear them out because they care for the customer’s time. That is, in fact, complete bullshit. All that tells me is that the representative wanted to save HIS/HER time and it surely sounds a lot better if he/she said it was about saving the customer’s time. In my specific case, I simply went to a neighboring branch (of Walgreens, again) and got what I needed from a “more helpful” representative who found a way to help me, without breaking the rule… and he found a way by just spending an extra 10 minutes listening to my problem. Heck! Even if he had not been able to help me after the 10 minute of my cathartic problem-telling, I would’ve still come out a happy customer – a customer that was at least heard out.

The lesson to learn here (for me and perhaps for you) is to consistently question the rules and the rule-enforcers in your organization to ensure the purpose of the rules (i.e. helping your customer) is not being lost in the process of upholding the rules. Here are a few good ones to ask:

  1. Are you or your employees following the rules blindly and in fact, turning customers away OR are they putting some thought into the situation and EXPLORING if there is any way they can help the customer without breaking the rules?
  2. Are you or your employees enforcing the rules with a level of rigidity that is in fact hurting your customers or are you looking to “help” the customer, even if it means you might have to “bend” the rules a little from time to time.
  3. Most important one: Are you turning the customer away with a big fat “NO” the moment you sense a rule might be broken if you help them in the way they need help OR are you at least, starting out with a magnanimous YES and are willing to HEAR THEM OUT!

The next time you remember a RULE, think of why it exists and see if the RULE itself defeats the purpose of why it exists… that’s a sure shot giveaway of a rule that needs to be inspected and perhaps, overruled!