I cannot tell you how often I hear the term “guideline” these days. It seems to creep into every other meeting or so, especially when “new and improved” concepts are being discussed at the management table. In my eyes, even if you substitute the word “guideline” for rules, you still view them as rules. Why do I think this? Well, just like in Texas Hold ‘Em, there’s a tell.
When someone begins their explanation about a new process (that has taken weeks to draw in Visio or to create in Power Point slides) by saying, right out of the gate:
“OK. This is a guideline, not a RULE…but a simple GUIDELINE”
…then you know it’s a RULE. Period.
This substitution is transparent & disingenuous. Please don’t hide behind this obvious bait and switch. If you want to create rules, say as much. At the very least it gives the poor souls subjected to the rules a chance at an open discussion with you. I have been guilty of this misdeed in the past, and my main motivation was to avoid difficult discussions. To create a culture of openness and trust, I feel we need to relish the opportunity to open a dialogue. It might be more painful (especially if you feel a specific RULE is critical), but the team will be stronger if you hit this challenge head on.