Did you ever notice when you travel to a new place, there are local traffic rules that everyone but you seems to know? These rules are not written down, but you tend to learn them as you drive.
You can clearly see the stop sign, but everyone is just driving through without the slightest pause. You hear blaring horns or interesting gestures when you apply the break.
Organizations seem to have these local rules.
An unwritten code that everyone obeys.
Navigating or even learning about these local rules can be a challenge.
These local rules seem to be contrary to stated practices, or are sometimes just plain weird.
We encourage people to be flexible with their schedule. But don’t come in after the boss or leave before they leave for the day.
Fridays are dress-down days. But not really if you want to be promoted or taken seriously.
We encourage new fresh ideas. But don’t do anything risky that may fail.
But recently I learned about a local rule that is clearly my favorite: The No Red Rule.
Yes, The No Red Rule.
In reports, financial statements, and presentations there is The No Red Rule.
The No Red Rule isn’t printed anywhere, but it seems to originate from a senior leader.
People discover The No Red Rule when creating reports or presentations when someone else reviews and tells them.
“You know about The No Red Rule right?”
“The No Red Rule. Whatever you do, don’t use any red in this presentation.”
“Are you kidding? How am I supposed to show his without red?”
“I don’t know, try green, or maybe blue, purple may not be great because it contains red…”
As I reflect on The No Red Rule, I cannot help but wonder about the origin. Maybe the color red has some negative stigma. Maybe the color red seems too angry. Maybe the color red…
Whatever the reason, it is more fascinating to think about the amount of time, energy, and lost productivity The No Red Rule local rule seems to cause.
The No Red Rule creates uncertainty and fear.
The No Red Rule creates revisions and reviews.
The No Red Rule feels arbitrary and needless.
What local rules does your organization have?
Where are you not allowed to use red, try new things, develop new ideas, or be flexible?
The real problem with local rules is that you don’t really know they are there until you violate them.
If you do have a local rule like The No Red Rule (and it is important) make it official and explain the rule. In the absence of the explanation, we are left with uncertainty.