Work this week. Whew!

I often find myself in the middle of a tension between finding ways to force someone to comply with an (essentially) arbitrary set of requirements, and letting the rigor go because they are trusted to do what they say they will do. The rule makers want to be able to mitigate any risk that things will not happen exactly as specified, and the (potential) rule breakers just want to be able to do their thing, man. They came here to discuss for approval and permission in the first place, so why treat them as though their intentions and future actions will be harmful?

It’s interesting to work on both sides of that line.

Wanting to mitigate all risk, wanting all conditions in black and white size 12 font double-spaced with no deviations allowed seems to be an unrealistic way to approach anything that happens in life.

Right? Have you met life?

So maybe the successful approach is less holding to a firm and unyielding standard and positioning to flex and adapt with changing conditions. How much does it matter if you force someone to comply with the rules if the enterprise can’t ultimately succeed (empty big box stores, anyone?) How much does it matter that you meet the minimum parking requirements if there is no one to park there? Where is it better to focus, on building a successful enterprise or on following the unyielding, inflexible rules.

In a recent conversation with friends, the topic of cattle thieving was brought up, and someone was sure it is still a hangable offense in Texas. Another someone expressed a desire to enforce similar harsh penalties for other serious offenses.

I was just sitting there wondering why the theft of cattle would be worth someone’s life in this day and time. In fact, why are a lot of things worth a life? Not that harm isn’t serious, not that I think people should take as they please, but when a life is at stake based on a poor decision in the moment or a desperate situation…what are we trying to do here?

I love that question: What are we trying to do here?

Because even if the goal is to mitigate risk, are hard line rules and formulas the best way to accomplish that? How does that respond to change? How do hard line rules adapt and improve and adjust and get better? How do they continue to accomplish the goal when the conditions have changed?

It’s a lot more work and shouldered responsibility to be adaptive. But I don’t see minimum parking requirements changing the world for better.