I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday about a new policy our organization has initiated. I ended up being the unintended recipient (in a punitive way) of this policy, and we were discussing the challenges that come with policies that are often “blanket” in nature.
This policy, on the surface, is minor, and the impact on my life was minimal and could be addressed without too much effort on my part. However, for others in my organization, the policy plays a large role.
And, yet for others, it has no meaning.
While blanket policies can put an end or delay to a situation that could potentially be problematic, they often do just as much harm as they do good. Too regularly, these types of policies punish those who shouldn’t be punished, and while they do provide us with a means to point out the black and white, they never allow us to consider the grey.
The other challenge? Blanket policies are often culture dividers, putting those in a community into two simple boxes, and pushing people apart, rather than pulling them together.
So, what can be done? One potential option is to avoid a fully blanket policy, instead opting for a structure that allows for some grey, within the larger black and white scheme. In other words, by providing a bit of wiggle room, a more serious approach can be taken to an issue, without necessarily having as large an impact on organizational culture.
An example? Take fidget spinners which I have written about before. Rather than simply ban spinners from being brought to school at all, allow them to be brought, but only permitted to be used in certain conditions, or in certain locations. This policy is easy to understand, and consequences are clear. Yet, it still provides flexibility to the community.
And learning and leading always benefit from a bit of flexibility.