Do not make rules that you cannot control or enforce

I have been repeating this sentence more often than I’d like recently. But if the COID-19 time has taught me one thing very impressively, it is:

Rule 1: Forget rules which you cannot control or enforce
(Alternatively: “Do not hope for the sanity of your colleagues / fellows / …”)

Many of the COVID measures would certainly not have been necessary if “we all” had behaved reasonably. One could discuss the term “reasonable” right away. But “reasonable” unfortunately depends on personal goals. If the personal goals diverge, the opinion about “reasonable behavior” diverges as well. And suddenly “we all” do not have a common sense of what “reasonable behaviour” is. This discrepancy is then what is called a “conflict.”

So, if you are responsible for a system (the system does not even have to be technical – the “health care system” e.g.), you can hope for the sanity of the involved participants (users) and not impose any constraints / rules … This will most likely lead to a conflict. If the conflict has to be solved, you will generally be confronted with utmost gratitude and boundless cooperation (this was ironic, by the way).

No problem: just set up some rules … But rules only do make sense if you can control and enforce compliance with the rules. Because … honestly whenever we discover an inconvenient rule, we want to circumvent it. And we are creative 🙂

Rule 2: Only make rules whose compliance you can enforce and control.

If you find yourself in a position where you can detect a violation of a rule but cannot (anymore) react (or only with enormous effort). You are on lost ground and can do nothing but watch.

Rule 3: It should be clear to everyone how the enforcement will be done.
Rule 2.5: This is transparency.

The 3 rules sound trivial … but can also be very unpleasant if you have to write them down and communicate them. On the other side, you will have certain displeasure right away, but not later (or at least less because the rules were clear from the beginning). A user, on the other hand knows what (s)he is (not) allowed to do. And if there is the transparency about the consequences, the user can also decide for him-/herself whether to break a rule or not – but one cannot complain.

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