In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Case for Corporate Disobedience,” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg states:
Simply put, sometimes the right thing to do is to stop asking for permission and start bending or even breaking select internal rules, working quietly to help the company succeed in spite of its own control systems. (emphasis added)
He goes on, later in the article, to ask this excellent question:
How many of your CURRENT success stories have come about because somebody bent the rules?
RULE: a principle, regulation, governing action, procedure, arrangement, etc.
Delivering Great Customer Service
Without people on the team (at all levels) who know when and how to bend or break the rules, for the good of the company, we are unlikely to deliver great customer service to our customers. And this loss is just the tip of the iceberg! It will impact much more than customer service!!
The rule breakers, in these scenarios, are often people who have an entrepreneurial bent. They may not want to run their own business, but they treat your business like it is their own. And that is a good thing!
It means they’re (usually) passionate about customer service, about delivering great products and/or services, and about giving you important and often critical feedback as to what they see the company doing wrong and how things can be improved.
These passionate and committed people can often be challenging to work with, because they don’t accept the status quo. They want the business they work for to be highly successful and they invest a lot of their own blood, sweat and tears, so to speak, in making it happen. They take it personally. It’s not just a job. Their personal integrity is wrapped up in the job they do for you.
Passionate, Values Driven, Fearless, Hardworking
They are usually not clock-watchers nor are they necessarily workaholics. But what they often are is passionate, values driven, fearless and hardworking.
Breaking the rules for the sake of breaking the rules is not what I’m talking about here. People like that are a hindrance to your business. But, those who understand the rules yet aren’t afraid to periodically bend or break the rules when they believe it makes sense for the business and the customer, even if they make the occasional mistake, should be rewarded not punished.
It takes guts to go against the grain and to decide the right thing to do might not be written in the rulebook. It’s not for everyone, but every company can benefit by having individuals like these on the team. They know the rules and they also know when to cross the line, and they have their head and heart in the right place when doing so.
Staff and management who are completely tied to the rules and who see them as written in stone; see them as unbendable and unbreakable, no matter what the situation; or, who fear breaking them for any reason; often do more damage than good to your business.
Knowing when it makes sense to break the rules takes wisdom. As this saying attributed to Picaso says . . .
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Updated November 2015