Find Useless Rules to Eliminate

As businesses and organizations age, they accumulate rules. The reason for this is actually quite logical: Something happens, usually bad, that should be prevented from happening again. The people running that business try to figure out why the thing happened, and if it’s good make it happen again as often as possible, and if it’s bad make sure it never happens again.

And so a rule is born. It makes perfect sense.

The trouble is that over time it makes less and less sense. The original problem that led to the rule goes away or changes. The original benefit of doing things a certain way vanishes. But one thing that organizations do very well is enforce rules that are felt to be really important, and so the enforcement of the rule often outlives its usefulness, or even the knowledge of why the rule exists in the first place.

When you see a move away from a long-standing hard-and-fast rule, you know that behind the scenes somebody finally stopped and asked the question, “Wait … why do we do it this way?” That’s what I thought of when I read this piece about hotels ditching the traditional check-in and check-out times. I’ve subliminally noticed this over the last several years, rarely being told it was “too early” to check in and being given more and more flexibility to check out.

I don’t know the hotel industry well enough to know why the rule might have existed in the past, but I’m sure it had to do with organizing the turnover of the rooms and being adequately staffed, and both of those problems are far easier to manage with computerized systems. (I did work in a hotel once pre-computerization, and it was a crazy patchwork quilt of manual systems behind the desk of things, like when to do wake-up calls and how to record room charges.)

Anyway, here’s my challenge: Find a useless, outdated or unexplainable rule in your live entertainment organization and cut it. Just cut it. Don’t modify it or tweak it, if at all possible. Just drop it. It’s one less thing for the team to have to keep in their heads, and it’ll probably will make life better for your customers.

Of course, if it’s not useless or outdated, don’t cut it. But I think most organizations have at least one — if not a lot — of these, and they can be lurking in the most unlikely places — maybe even written by hand and taped to the refrigerator door.

Can you find one? If you do, share, especially if you actually go through with cutting it.

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