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Why you might want to help people override your rules

We often think of our rules as being immutable — in other words, strictly enforced. After all, if we've spent time crafting rules, we're unlikely to want to have them overridden.

But what about when they're not serving a useful purpose? Every rule we write runs the risk of not applying in all situations.

So, If you have a rule that technically applies in situations when it makes no sense, then it's worth seeing if you can permit an override. Because, if you know that's the case, then your employees will as well. Which reminds me of a road sign...

This East German traffic sign — the Grünpfeil, or green arrow — allows drivers to ignore red lights when turning right at certain junctions was not only retained after unification but rolled out across the whole country.

It's smart because it allows drivers to ignore red lights if — and only if —it is safe to do so. And it means you can create rules about what doing it safely means.

Not only does this help traffic flow, but it also stops drivers from becoming frustrated as they're unnecessarily held at red lights. And yes, they've done research that proves it isn't more dangerous than not having it.

It's a great example of thinking about unintended consequences of rules & not enforcing them when they make no sense. If you don't think in these terms, you not only risk breaches of the specific rule, but you also risk undermining your entire program — because no one likes authorities that impose rules that serve no purpose.


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