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Cutting back on rules is hard work

I was not bored for a single moment as renowned hockey coach Marc Lammers fired off anecdotes and wonderful parallels between professional sport and our daily working lives during the Master in Business Learning at Arpa.

To inspire us, he also tells us this story: whereas top athletes deliver a top performance just once or twice a week, in business we do this for 40 hours or more each week. Sure, I can put this into perspective, and acknowledge that the life and training of athletes is entirely focussed on excelling during that one particular competition. All the same, the relationship between (professional) sport and business is clear to me; it’s not just an appealing idea, it also encourages me to make the most of things.

I recently noticed that this also applies to one of the most important life events: moving house. I moved twice this summer. Along with my girlfriend and a herd of animals, I left the city for our dream home in the countryside. At the same time I had to pack up my things at work to make room for a newly refurbished office. Whilst my office supplies were limited to a laptop, a few print outs and a locker with some personal items, the household items had to be carefully packed in some 150 boxes. Unused items had already been cleared out and dropped off at the charity shop, the recycling centre, or the landfill.

Dealings with the movers were effortless: the boxes arrived in good time, and I had managed to arrange a parking space right in front of the house in our narrow street. On the day of the move the ‘stand-up’ involved a quick check of all the rooms and a discussion about the moving plan. I could hardly believe my eyes: the movers each had their own task and moved fluently from room to room so that within no time at all our boxes and belongings were conscientiously stacked up in the removal van. Our greatest contribution to the whole process was making sure we didn’t get in the way too much.

I read an article last weekend (“Too many rules, not enough trust ”) that made me think back to my moving day. At no point, before, during or after our move, did I experience excessive rules, procedures and checklists. That’s very different to the decades of increasing bureaucracy within our healthcare system that everyone will recognize. Thanks to my recent experiences, it is almost impossible for me not to see all the unnecessary rules, procedures and checklists in my own place of work.

So let’s agree to have a clear-out (of unnecessary rules) and ‘move’ ourselves into an environment with fewer rules. This requires the discipline of a professional athlete and, analogous to a move, a sometimes stressful time. My new maxim: instead of relying on a form, let’s trust each other’s expertise instead!
You never really get used to moving, but thanks to a solid preparation and the right tools and help, the result was great. After the warm-up, a good start, and the final sprint to the end, I now enjoy fantastic places to live and work in every day!

Cutting back on rules is hard work. I recommend it to everyone.