Thinking about rules in general

Last night, as we entered the dining room at the country club, we were greeted by this wonderful sign:

Gentlemen, please remove your hat. Something quintessentially Texan about that (and no, I’m not quibbling about the grammatical correctness of that notice). Not being far from a golf course at that time (and for that matter, not particularly far from a golf course as I write this), my mind wandered a bit, and I started to think about “local rules” in golf.

I’ve been fascinated by local rules ever since I played Minchinhampton Old a few decades ago. The course is on common ground; as a result, cattle are free to roam the course; flagsticks are therefore flagless and only a few feet high; and you get a free drop from cowpats.

I think it was journalist Charles Price who said that golf only needed three rules (and I paraphrase): don’t touch your ball between placing it on the tee and picking it up from the hole; no bending over in the rough; and if you must go into the woods, clap your hands.

Where is all this leading? Well, today’s Saturday and I’m on vacation, so I’m allowed to be lazy in my thinking. Bear with me. When it comes to buying/building decisions for technology, I tend to use the following mantra:

If the problem is generic use opensource

If the problem is specific to a market segment use commercial

If the problem is unique to your organisation use your own resources

I’ve begun to wonder whether a variation of that mantra is appropriate for rules in general. Generic rules, rules that matter whoever we are, wherever we are. Market segment rules, rules that relate to the specific society we associate with. And local rules, rules that are contextual.

Too often, I see people seek to impose rules out of context, moving from the spirit-of-law to letter-of-law, acting like car-park-warden-meets-jobsworth.

Just musing on a Saturday morning.

4 thoughts on “Thinking about rules in general”

  1. I’ve been researching the role of improvisation and routines in business, and have come to the conclusion that following a rule is not a straightforward matter. Your mantra appealed to me, and it started me thinking about gay marriages as a case of the three layers.

    40-50 years ago, governments began to feel that the law ought not to regulate people’s private lives, including sexual morality. So some generic social rules were removed, including laws 0n homosexuality and attitudes to divorce.

    People look to their churches for moral teaching, hence the Church of England, as the equivalent of an industry, has to reflect on its teachings about sex , and whether it should be positive or negative about gay marriage.

    And all of us, as individuals, have to decide what we are prepared to tolerate in our partner, in contextwhether our partnership is legally recognised, or blessed by the church, or not.

  2. Some are rules; and some are guidelines. Some rules becomes organizational routines and strategic mantras. Your tripartite classification is similar to what I think about in acquiring capabilities in the network:

    A. Capabilities that support the operational infrastructure–Acquire from the market without paying any premium.

    B. Capabilities that are industry-standards–Acquire from top-tier suppliers using aggressive performance contracts. Do not tolerate competitive weaknesses but do not pay premium here.

    C. Capabilities that drive strategic differentiation–either internal resources or strategic partnerships to accelerate innovation. It is perfectly OK to involve partners as long as the value can be appropriated.

    Then, there are two management challenges– (1) organization-wide recognition and acceptance of the tripartite classification of capabilities and the allcation of resources accordingly; and (2) a systematic process to analyze the dynamic shifts within the tripartite classification , to reclassify capabilities and to change the sourcing routines.

    Rules may be long-lasting but routines to classifiy and source capabilities need to be fine-tuned and adjusted. Sourcing logics change; partner choices change; drivers of industry-parity change quickly and enablers of innovation evolve.

    A successful company is one which frames and analyzes itself as a portfolio of capabilities through relationships, not as a portfolio of products or businesses. Viewed as a portfolio of capabilities through relationships, the enterprise is flexible to transform its business strategy and adapt to the changing requirements.

  3. Thanks, I like the simplicity of your rules.

    I would suggest some changes :

    If the problem is generic use SaaS or OpenSource

    If the problem is specific to a market segment use commercial OpenSource.

    If the problem is unique to your organisation build with OpenSource tools.

Let me know what you think

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