I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of most policies. It may be because I’m not a very good rule follower, but I honestly don’t think many policies work as well as they are intended to.
Policies are defined as a course, plan or principle of action. They are designed, by definition, to offer a sense of control. In theory, policies are to make things better and, I will admit, they are a necessary part of dealing with people in an organizational setting. Without policies we would have chaos.
I realize even the title of this post has some people already objecting. I will have some of my rule following friends who disagree with my wording or maybe even that I would seem against policies. And, maybe the title is too strong. I probably should say I hate bad policies, because that’s more the reality. I love good policies. OK, love is too strong a word also, but I don’t hate them. But, it’s my firm conviction many organizations (especially churches) have too many policies. And, especially too many bad policies.
My problem with polices is they often interrupt progress rather than enhance it. If not careful, a policy may control the success you want to see as a leader. I personally would rather have chaos with no policies than a bunch of really bad policies.
When I got to an established church we had a policy—voted on by the church in a business meeting at some point—on folded chairs. True story. It told the procedures to do if someone borrowed folding chairs from the church. It should be noted we probably no longer even had the chairs of which the policy spoke, but just in case we ever did again there was already a policy in place.
Granted, policies may make sense when they are created, but as we look at the issue from a bigger picture they can even appear comical over time. Obviously, we can figure out what led to a folding chair policy. Someone borrowed chairs. They didn’t bring them back or treat them as they should. Therefore, to prevent this from ever occurring again people wrote a new policy. (Not to be over-dramatic, but it almost sounds like what the religious rulers were doing when Jesus began His ministry.)
Here are four reasons I hate policies:
Policies eliminate a sense of freedom
Policies, by nature, are methods of control. Even for those who love rules and want everything spelled out for them, policies can add a sense of burden as you attempt (or don’t attempt) to live up to their demands. Show me an environment with a bunch of policies and you can almost always find some stressed out people.
Policies limit ability to think outside the box
Policies can limit thoughts to a pre-determined outcome, which keeps the random and potentially explosive thoughts from developing. They can limit people’s ability to dream, explore, redesign and imagine. If everything is spelled out for people they have no reason to actually think for themselves.
Policies stall attempts at excellence
The parameters of a policy often produce an atmosphere of mediocrity. Everything is clear. Planned. Written. Solved. No need for improvement here until someone finds another way to mess up. Of course, then we need to add another policy.
Policies curtail the pursuit of progress
The weight of meeting the demands of policies can take valuable energy from pursuing things that have the opportunity of producing greater progress.
And, my suggestions?