The Unwritten Rules

The real rules...

The unwritten rules – are the real rules.

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most – become a part of tradition. This is the way people do things – the way decisions are made – the way people respond to leadership and potential.

This is what is real.

This is the DNA of the organization.

People may not even realize they are what they are. They may have never been written down, voted on or “put in the minutes”, but they are assumed true by the majority of people.

They are considered law. These are the rules people will defend and protect the most. They’ll fight to keep them from being changed or bended.

If you are a new leader or a veteran, understanding this principle will increase your effectiveness.

When we entered an established church I realized quickly there were some things I didn’t need to attempt to change the first couple years – or if we did these unwritten rules would alter how we approached, introduced or implemented change. There were ingrained cultural understandings I needed to know. 

How do you know the unwritten rules? First, be aware they exist in every organization. Second, ask good questions of people who have been there longer than you. Third, you’ll discover them mostly as you approach any kind of change which goes against one of them – by experience. (Which is why you don’t build change in a vacuum. You collaborate with others.)  

Trust me in this. You may be a genuius with creating new and exciting ideas, but first you must understand this principle. Learn the unwritten rules first.

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10 thoughts on “The Unwritten Rules

  1. In a School Class Organization specifically a By Laws Committee; my question is: Can an Executive Board President be a member of the By Laws committee when that committee reports directly to the Executive Board?

  2. Agreed Ron! It is important we keep our eyes and ears open at all times and learn these unwritten rules at the earliest when we join an organization. We need to remember that the employees are human beings and not machines. Hence, there will be always unwritten rules.

  3. Yes! I've learned that one the hard way…Great insight, Ron. What are some questions/avenues you've found helpful in unearthing the unwritten rules in a church or organization?

    • I always ask people with longer history in the church than me…people I trust. I often pull together a cross representation of people and throw out scenarios, ideas, etc and see what the temperature is. The best way though is simply by observation and by trial and error. Realizing it and adjusting accordingly is key.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson