Simplify Your Work by Killing Stupid Rules

Simplify Your Work by Killing Stupid Rules image

Is your big picture getting bogged down by unnecessary and redundant little pictures?

Rules and procedures are often created to help us with efficiency or higher quality outcomes, but the opposite effect can happen when rules are no longer effective. Think through your day or week – can you come up with at least one rule that isn’t helping accomplish anything? That rule and others like it don’t have to be kept around.

It’s time to kill those stupid rules!

Lisa Bodell and futurethink have created a simple process to help you eliminate those rules or procedures that hinder productivity and innovation in your work. Walk yourself and your team through these steps to get an overview of how to do it:

Identify Stupid Rules

First, let’s distinguish between rules that can be killed and those that can’t.

If it’s illegal to not follow it or to change it – it’s off limits. Government regulations are outside the bounds of this exercise and stay off the table here.

Second, this discussion should be focused on solutions. It’s not a time for your team to just complain about what they don’t like – they should have valid reasons for why it doesn’t work and needs to be eliminated or changed.

This time with your team should focus on what affects your day to day work – the things you have the power to change. Start small and look at rules or standard procedures that are unnecessary, or more of a hindrance than a help.

Once you get a feel for taking on the small fries, you can start looking at higher level rules. But be careful there, as you’ll need someone with the authority to modify or kill those rules to understand why your team feels they need to go.

The goal is to simplify your work, but everything still needs to work. If a rule happens to be incredibly mundane, but necessary for the business to function, it’s probably not killable. Possibly changeable, though, so look at ways you can modify those rules.

Note to leaders: Stay objective. If your team identifies rules that you personally created or just really love to follow, don’t play the defensive if they have valid reasons for getting rid of them.

Plot Stupid Rules

Once you’ve identified a bunch of rules your team would love to see nixed, have each person pick their top two.

Lisa Bodell recommends plotting them on a matrix with these quadrants:

  • Low Impact / Easy to Kill
  • Low Impact / Hard to Kill
  • High Impact / Hard to Kill
  • High Impact / Easy to Kill

Your golden ticket lies in that “High Impact / Easy to Kill” quadrant. Rules that fall under those qualifications are ones you have the authority to kill and they’ll save a lot of time and frustration for your team. Those are your quick wins.

Evaluate and Discuss Stupid Rules

Look at that beautiful matrix full of stupid rules! Now you need to figure out how realistic it is to kill them – and why they haven’t been killed before.

Which quadrant has the most rules? Are there a lot of rules that are related to similar functions? Why haven’t the rules in that golden ticket quadrant been eliminated before?

You can use these questions to get the discussion going and figure out what it’s going to take to modify or kill a rule. Once you’ve discussed each of them and identified the ones that can go right away…

Kill Stupid Rules

Get it over with already! Use your authority to take action on those stupid rules and decide to kill them. These actions will simplify your work and free up your team’s powers of innovation when they’re not bogged down by complex, unnecessary procedures.

If you have a rule on the chopping block that may or may not be missed, try putting it away for a few months and seeing if anyone notices its absence. If not, kill it dead!

You can use this “Kill a Stupid Rule” tool as a recurring discussion to make sure your organization and your work stays uncluttered. Helping your team make work simpler allows them to focus on how their role fits into the big picture of your company’s mission!

Watch a preview of “Tool School: Kill a Stupid Rule” from The BizLibrary Collection here:


View the full video and others from futurethink with a free 30-day trial of our online employee training content library, The BizLibrary Collection!

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.