Unshrink: I hate the boss and no more homework!

Sep 17 2002 by Max McKeown Print This Article

Rules often penalise the obedient, the innovative, and leave the disobedient untouched. They tend to be written to create the illusion of order without peace or personal commitment to improvement.

Travelling recently, I listened (with the rest of the carriage) to a passionate conversation between two strangers in which one explained how she, "hated her job, boss, and company".

She had joined the company as a temp a year ago and despite being a graduate was not now permitted to join the graduate scheme. Why? Because the company found it hard to retain staff at her level and had instituted the rule to avoid losing people.. In a similar stroke of "management by daft rules", it had also decided that only 10 people from her department of 200 people could take a day off at the same time..

Where was this young woman going? For a job interview of course! How did she get her day off? By lying and saying that she was ill.. for the job interview the following week she was planning on saying that her grandmother was ill..

People do what they want. Her company could have focused on the reasons that people were leaving rather than making a rule that they couldn't leave - it's just an idea but the evidence bears it out. Let's recognise the limitations of rules and that they are often used as a substitute for communication, planning, negotiation, and performance.

Elsewhere, a UK school has managed to throw off almost all supposedly essential structure in the school day. No traditional lessons and no homework. The results for the pilot students were startling with an increase of 6 per cent in Maths and 12 per cent higher in English!

The head teacher, Patrick Hazelwood explained that, "The teaching team had to learn to think as one. We had to make sure that each new curriculum theme had a central story and thread, despite being taught by different staff." In Making the News, for example, pupils are taught the history of communication between people and animals. They cover everything from cave painting and hieroglyphics to classical story-telling and satellite communication. "All elements of the subject help to explain and make sense of the bigger picture," says Hazelwood. "There are one-off lessons in which pupils have to do specific tasks such as consulting a dictionary, but maths, French and German probably appear quite often. The emphasis is on learning how to think and take responsibility for the learning process." (see this article for more.

This is not just a one off success or just for students who are already succeeding. It is universal. Work to create something that people want to do with the people that are doing it and they will do it better and happier.

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About The Author

Max McKeown
Max McKeown

Max McKeown works as a strategic adviser for four of the five most admired companies in the world. He is a well-known speaker on subjects including innovation and competitive advantage. His latest book, #NOW: The Surprising Truth About the Power of Now, was published in July 2016.