Tag Archives: exceptions to the rule

You Decide: Business Rules vs. Case by Case

It seems to me that carefully defined rules clash with judgment calls and case-by-case common sense. You grow a business team based on one or the other, but not both.

Take the example of customer returns: do you define the rules and stick to them, or do you make exceptions all the time. You can’t do both. If you offer a 60-day money-back guarantee, some of your team will want to refuse returns from beyond 60 days, because that’s the rule. Others will want to give an unhappy customer their money back even if it’s been 61, 90, 120 days or longer.

The problem is that you can’t do both, but you want to. I’ve always wanted employees empowered to break the rules for special cases. I’ve always thought people wanted to be empowered to use their common sense and good judgment. But I’ve learned through the years that “you decide” and “use your judgment” is not everybody’s favorite policy. That makes some people very uncomfortable; they want to know the rules and follow them exactly.

This conflict applies to lots of issues that come up as a business grows. Think about bonuses in this context. Think about sick days and vacations. If you build a lot of rules, making exceptions gets harder.

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