Principles over policy

Sara over at the The Curious Shopper, has a great blog post about her creative means to adhere to a bank’s policy for not serving customers at their drive-up window who are not in cars while satisfying her desperate need to deposit a check without a car (be sure to read this post!). She went on to relate the effects such policies have on employees. One great quote is:

If you limit people, they will behave with a limited outlook. They’ll blindly follow rules because they weren’t trained to think otherwise. But if you trust people, and empower them with training, they will see the rules from the viewpoint of the customer.

Policies only tend to create mindless actions. In other words:


I think what we need here are guiding principles and not policies. Give your employees principles to judge customer service situations and not a thick policy manual to memorize. These guiding principles should:

  1. Be constructed from the customer’s point of view
  2. Be easy enough for everyone to understand and put into practice
  3. Allow the well-trained employee to have full autonomy to make decisions quickly
  4. Be part of the company culture

7 Responses

  1. […] is probably the best thing I’ve read in a week. UberEye Marketing rants about how policies should be replaced by principles. It makes sense. Give […]

  2. Wow, that is an awesome graph! I love it. I’ll bet studies will show both correlation AND causation between those two variables. 🙂

    I think you nailed it – the ever-so-slight yet incredibly important difference between policies and principles. If companies would teach people principles – ways of guiding their decisions – rather than strict rules, we’d all understand each other better.

    Great writeup. Thanks for the mention.

  3. Sara,

    Thanks for the comments and stopping by!

  4. […] Practice principles over policy. […]

  5. […] It sounds like another case of policy over principles. […]

  6. […] let Company Policy work overtime at your company, use principles […]

  7. […] just goes to show you that it pays to act small (even if you are), trust is a beautiful thing and leading by principles instead of rigid policies can get you a whole lot further (especially in this economy). So the next time you may find […]

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