Rules make all the difference

Have you ever noticed when you begin a game or perhaps something a little more serious like a project or a business endeavour, although it starts out on the right foot it can very easily and very quickly go “off course”?

Why is that?

The essence of communication is what is heard not necessarily what is intended. Something gets ‘lost in translation’ between the explanation and understanding of what is being said. We think we are singing from the same song book but when you look closely, not only is it the case we are not on the same page of the song book, we are holding completely different books altogether. Rules make all the difference!

To play by the rules you have to know the rules to begin with

So what is a rule? A rule is one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure within a particular area of activity.  Seems straight forward enough…

It is a fact, we listen through a set of filters which are essentially past based. These filters can shift the emphasis from one thing to another. We also listen for what we know or rather, what we think we know and then continue on that track. Given we all lead different lives, is it any wonder  we end up holding completely different song books? Establishing the rules of the game and the expectations up front is the easy way to avoid problems. This provides clarity and workability.

The process to clarity

Individuals come together to create something or to partake in something. For this to occur and work there will need to be a high degree of alignment. When we talk about alignment we necessarily mean values alignment. For more on this subject, refer to an early post on this subject for now values alignment is a precursor to agreement and agreements require unanimity of opinion. This is when it’s important to talk about expectations. Expectations always fall into two categories; spoken and unspoken. It’s always the unspoken expectations that come back to bite you. This is why absolute honesty about what your expectations are is required. A high degree of honesty upfront will save a lot of pain and expense in the long run. Far better to bail early that to get further down the track when time and effort has been expended and money spent.

Expectations as related to the outcome

The purpose for coming together is generally for the bringing about of a specific outcome. What is it you are trying to achieve? Once you have alignment on what that looks like then a set of agreements it needed for how that will take place. Agreements are negotiated; once negotiated they become a binding promise or commitment to do something. Any effective negotiation requires give and take as long as it is not at the cost of the stated outcome and purpose. If it is clearly defined the next step is to cement the agreements and create a set of rules that ensure the outcome is adhered to. Whereas agreements are negotiated, rules are imposed.  This is where setting it all down in writing and referring to the rules and agreements makes all the difference.

Four things to consider when formulating rules

  1. What is purpose of the rule?
  2. Does the rule serve the purpose it is intended to serve?
  3. Is the rule the only way to serve that purpose?
  4. When is the review date?

What if the idea, business or project isn’t fully formed?

Let’s face it, ideas evolve over time and what you end up with is often very different to what you started with. That is perfectly fine, as long as the agreements keep evolving to keep up with the changing vision. For example, when Facebook started it was intended to illicit the relationship status of girls on campus to find out which girls were available to date; a far cry from where Facebook has evolved to today. The only way that works is if you keep updating the expectations, agreements and rules to stay in line with what you are up to. The obvious issue with this is as the vision changes and the rules evolve with it (assuming you have an organic model) alignment changes, which brings up the need for yet another set of rules and agreements; how to exit and maintain the relationship.