Monday, February 1, 2010

Jedi Mind Tricks, and the Policy Police

I'm a reasonable guy. I understand that I am not capable of being an expert in everything. It's hard to be a expert in any one thing, let along two or three. Forget being the voice of authority on all animals, mammals, birds, chickens, or even the wingspan of an African Swallow.

I do have a few acquaintances that appear to be the embodiment of Britannica - they know everything about everything. No subject is too arcane, too obscure, or too uninteresting to be awarded their special insight. From Autoimmune to Zoology these wackos can spout more anecdotal urban pop culture hearsay than snopes has rumors.

As a passenger on an airplane, I don't need to fully understand the mathematics underlying aerodynamics to know that $5.00 is too much for a can of Coke. My appreciation for the rings of Saturn is not based on the Newtonian model of gravitational pull. I get it, I don't need to know every detail to have an appreciation of the forces and rules that govern our lives.

But...

Do not answer my questions with, "It's policy." When I ask why the best blog site dedicated to addressing tough Adobe Flex issues is blocked by the corporate firewall, don't just snort, "It's policy." When I inquire about adding an extra Gig of RAM to my Developer Workstation, do not say, "Can't have it, it's policy." And when I want to know why MY PERSONAL BLACKBERRY cannot access MY PERSONAL EMAIL, don't even try the Jedi policy mind trick on me. Consider me Toydarian!

"Policy" is not an answer; it's an admission of inadequacy. It's shorthand for "The answer to your question is beyond my grasp and my limited vocabulary prohibits any form of intelligent response." Policies exist for a reason, and if a policy mandates or prohibits a particular action, then anyone and everyone in a position to enforce the policy should have the three neurons necessary to articulate the REASONS on which the policy is based.

Furthermore, and this is dedicated to all of the future mall cops of America, all policies are based on a context. In the absence of the right context, the policy is null, void, unfounded, irrelevant, non-sequitor, perpendicular, passed on, expired, gone to meet its maker, a stiff, bereft of life, it rests in peace, its pushing up the daisies, its kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. It is AN EX-POLICY!

If you're in a governance role having to implement policies, then you likely have to deal with schlucks like me who ask dumb questions and whine about why they can't get every little desire that pops into their heads. But you still have the responsibility to express the rationale, in consumer-centric language, for the policies you enforce. But before responding to any request, you must understand the context in which the request is made.

We need policies, they add structure to our world, and reduce our work-set, allowing us to focus on the unique. We do not need drones, anti-social misfits who aspire to spend more alone time with their Book-O-Rules. Understand, Adapt, Communicate.

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