How to define your rules
In my last blog I talked about people who break the rules now and then, because they believe the specific situation they're in could not be foreseen when the rules were made.
As I discuss in my book The Fearless Monkey, one way to create space for 'deviant' actions is to work with alignment rather than agreement. ‘Agreements’ are often just rules by another name, laid down by management. It would be better to have rules (guidelines) that come from alignment.
The Japanese philosopher Yasuhiko Kimura describes the difference between alignment and agreement beautifully. Alignment is the convergence of intentions, agreement is the convergence of opinions. Intentions are creative and focused on the future, while opinions are repetitions and based on the past. Agreement is not a prerequisite for alignment. Convergence of intentions means coming to a joint decision to achieve a specific objective. A joint decision is then made on the actions to be undertaken in the knowledge that this is a temporary agreement open to adjustment or change.
Alignment creates synergy. If individuals are aligned in their task, their combined intelligence can deliver results that far exceed the intelligence of each individual. The issue after all is not ‘Who is right?’ but ‘How do we best fulfil our intention?’
In an organisation based on alignment, a difference of opinion does not reduce the power of that alignment but actually strengthens it -- it can make the organisation more effective. Plurality and diversity of ideas and perspectives, united in one shared intention, strengthen each other in achieving the objective.
In an organisation based on agreement, on the other hand, a difference of opinion leads to internal dispute, political infighting based on discord, the creation of factions and perhaps even downfall.
The famous “we agree to disagree” is only beneficial if the parties involved use this disagreement to formulate a shared and better way forward. If it means “we are tired of repeating our arguments over and over again and getting nowhere, so let’s move on”, it will bring temporary relief, but the organisation or the particular endeavour will not be strengthened by it.
Obviously, the word alignment implies that it cannot be dictated by the leader. Leadership in this cae, is about bringing together different intentions and working to have them point in the same direction. The leader is responsible for the process of creating this alignment and subsequently for ensuring that everybody acts accordingly.
In the next blog, I’ll discuss another take on how to deal with the inadequacy and fallibility of rules, as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), understood so well.