Rules, policies, guidelines, directives, SOP’s, requirements, standards, etc. are all a necessary part of any organization.

One can only imagine life in an organization void of all of these. Unimaginable chaos would ensure.

On the flip-side of that, I’m sure we have all seen or heard of situations where these are taken to the extreme. The term overreaching comes to mind. We have probably all experienced situations where Human Resources clings to the letter of policies, rather than comparing the spirit of a policy to a given situation. 

In gaining my Leadership and Management Impact accreditation with #Human Synergistics through Honsha/Niwaki, I learned to call this a ‘Conventional’ approach. This approach is generally considered ‘passive-defensive’ in nature and is mostly non-constructive. It is also an example of form driving function which is, of course, backward. Form should exist to support the function. This conventional structure motivates people within the organization to conform, void of a true understanding of the actual situation. In short, this is lazy management.

The most glaring real-life example I have seen fairly recently is the news story from a sporting goods store in Tallahassee Fla. in July, 2018.

The news article I read told of a store manager who was terminated for touching a customer. The company had a policy that employees should not touch customers. So far, everything seems in line, right? 

Well, according to the article, it appears the manager was reacting to a situation where the customer allegedly was trying to make off with a .40 caliber handgun and several boxes of matching ammunition taken from the counter. After the counter employee yelled “stop that guy,” the manager reacted by tackling the employee, securing the weapon, and calling police. The police came and arrested the man. According to one article, police indicated the assailant threatened to shoot people with the stolen gun.

A huge outcry ensured on social media about the fact the guy was fired. People seemed outraged that the company would fire a manager who was acting to potentially save lives. Obviously, this turned into a public embarrassment for the company. Faced with the bad press, the company ultimately hired the guy back. 

The two pillars of the Toyota Production System (TPS)are Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. The situation I described in this article clearly represents disrespect for the employee that was initially fired. My experience of over 20 years with Toyota Motor Corporation taught me to always look at the facts of any situation individually and consider the spirit of the policy compared with the facts of the situation at hand. While it is important to consider similar situations to promote consistency, ultimately the decision must be made considering the facts of the current situation and the impact of any decision. That was clearly not done in this situation.

Alan Parsley is a LEAN/HR executive consultant, facilitator and speaker who leads LEAN improvement initiatives at companies from a wide range of industries. Alan is President of JaxHR Consulting and serves as a Sr. Associate for Honsha/Niwaki & Associates, a premier international lean consulting group.

Alan gained the unique combination of operational and administrative experience over his 27-year career. Alan learned Leadership and Toyota Production System (TPS) methodologies while at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky. Facility as well as the corporate headquarters in Erlanger Ky.