28 July 2014
Society does need to have some rules in order to function, but at what point does regulation cease to be effective? John Bowen blogs.
The problem with regulation is that it needs to be enforced - otherwise it is pointless and so one aspect of creating rules has to be the practicality of implementing them.
One of the lessons that you learn as a parent is that the more you try and box your children in, the more devious they will get in trying to circumvent you. This carries through to management in the adult world where the more restrictive an employer becomes the greater the time their employees will waste on bending or breaking those rules. Keeping it simple is a principle of good leadership.
A few months ago I mentioned in one of these columns that we had had a fire at a recycling facility in Swindon. My context then was that of crisis management for that fire had resulted in the closure of local roads on a business park so that workers could not get to work. Seven days ago another such fire started here and it is still going and whilst this one has not had the same business impact it has taken a toll in other ways; households having to keep windows and doors shut in very hot weather and emergency crews having to work in full protective gear out in the full sun being just two.
I have the utmost respect for those responding to the fire and for the actions that they have had to take and none of what I am about to write in any way is critical of them. My issue here is with regulation that cannot be adequately enforced.
That we need to take a sustainable approach to life is without question, but sustainability also needs to apply to the rules that we desire to work to for. If we cannot sustain the application of those rules, they won't work and become pointless. In the case of the two recycling plant fires it is reported that the same people run both facilities and there is evidence being reported of systematic failures over several years concerning those companies.
Why have they not been closed down you might ask, especially in the light of the fines that have been imposed on both businesses and individuals. But the underlying problem as I see it is that the advent of regulation rarely solves a problem, it just moves or changes it because those who design it don't think it through or, worse still, see the repercussions as someone else's problem. If regulation is to work then it needs to be workable.
Unfortunately we are stuck with the things that become law and can't be fully seen through. But when it comes to running our own organisations it is worth thinking about whether or not we can truly work with the rules that we want to introduce, and understand what the implications of those rules are.
Those of us involved in buying and selling know the difference between input and output specifications; input specs are restrictive and might seem to give you what you want, but often don't give you what you need and tend to cost more, the problem being that they are restrictive. Output specs are less regulated and more likely to provide what you need.
Another saying that works here is that less is more. Perhaps those devising our laws and regulations should understand that.
John Bowen is an FM consultant