Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

The Battle of Systematic vs. Case by Case 0

I’ve been dealing with this since I hired the first employees in my company and I still haven’t come to terms with it.  It seems like it comes along with being in charge, and can’t be avoided: rules and systems establish order and simplify processes, but they also cut into flexibility, and disempower common sense.rule book

As a business owner, or manager, you’re not going to win on this one. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Running a business is a constant stream of decisions. Do we buy this or that, do we change hours, what about customer returns, what about who signs checks … credit cards for some employees who travel? Beer on a Friday afternoon. And so forth. You know that.

The problem I’m talking about is that some people seem to live for carefully defined rules that cover every possible case.  And I always preferred general rules that empowered people to use common sense.

A snow storm is looming: do we let people out early?

A caller who bought an illegal pirated copy of our software on eBay for $10 is blaming us that it doesn’t work. Do we offer upgrade pricing?

If you try to guess all possible eventualities, in advance, and come up with the rules and policies for them, you go crazy.  But people are different. Not everybody wants to be empowered to make those case-by-case decisions. Some want only a set of rules they can follow without having to think about it. I don’t see how leaders and managers can accommodate both sides of this question. I never have.