Which rules to follow – a story

I often get into conversations with people about which rules to follow and which rules to fight.  Being a good alumnus of the Navy’s nuclear power program, I pull out a good Admiral Rickover story. This is the story I always tell.

Rickover was keenly aware that there are two kinds of rules.  He understood that laws of nature, such as the effects of gravity, or radiation, or excessive temperature or pressure, cannot be gotten around by fast talk, political influence, or subterfuge.  On the other hand, man-made rules are a different entity.  Some, such as laws passed by legislative bodies, must be obeyed, and he was scrupulous about this.  Others, such as bureaucratic procedures defining how one may carry out assigned responsibilities, sometimes can and should be circumvented, he felt.  In particular, those procedures that “everyone” followed because “it’s just our policy” he not only spurned but did so with great pleasure.” – As told by Theodore Rockwell in The Rickover Effect

Too often we mix up the types of rules.

We ignore the stored energy in an electrical or hydraulic system.  We forget that a closed tank recently opened may not have enough air for us.  We think the heavy thing hanging above our head won’t ever fall.

Yet, we abide by, kneel to, and submit to over-and-over-and-over again a man-made rule (or worse, an acquired behavior) because that’s “just how we do it here.”

When there is something standing between you and the change you want to make, figure out if it is a rule that should always be respected, or one that deserves a good challenge.  Submit if you must, but fight if you can.

You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish once you are fighting and fighting well.

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  1. Pingback: Bending the Organization to Our Will in 2016 – Engine For Change

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