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Okay to change plans and rules

Good Group Tips

In principle, an amateur may follow the script perfectly but a professional knows when to change the script or even leave it entirely, depending on the energy of the audience. A novice may know the rules but a veteran knows the exceptions. It is good to have scripts, plans, and rules, but experience warns against unwavering allegiance to them.

Practical Tip: Keep in mind that plans and rules are never an end in themselves but are rather just means to an end. Plans and rules are there to keep us on track toward long-term goals, but if we get off track we need to change plans and rules accordingly.

If a meeting agenda is not achieving the meeting objectives, change it. If an annual work plan is not resulting in the right amount or quality of work getting done, change it. If a law is not having the desired effect, change it.

If you find that a plan or rule is not working for your group, don’t make an independent decision to ignore it. Rather, work within established group processes to change it.

Achieving long-term ends requires ever-changing means.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

4 thoughts on “Okay to change plans and rules

  1. I recognize what you are saying in this tip is true. However, I teach the opposite that is, it is not okay to change the plan or rules. In my experience, people will use your tip as an excuse not to plan and not make rules. (Why make this plan if we’re going to change it? Let’s just go with the flow of the moment.)

    In my opinion, the reality of what you are saying – that plans rarely actual happen as planned, and, there is an exception to almost every rule – starts with the group trying to adhere to the plan and rules in the first place. It is in the trying that a group discovers it cannot and, as you say, must make adjustments not only to the immediate situation but also to the “self-image” of how the group actually behaves and let go of the previous self-image which allowed them to make a plan or rule they actually could not do. If they don’t make the plan or rule in the first place and try to adhere to it, however, none of the rest happens.

    Your tip seems to assume that the people reading it are already good at planning a meeting or following the rules of a particular process, whether it be consensus or voting or whatever. If this is in fact your audience, than your tip makes sense. However, I my experience, few individuals or groups plan their meetings well or take the time to learn a set of rules of meeting process. Therefore, in my opinion, giving unskilled people permission to change what they are already not doing well is a recipe for disaster. I would rather assume the opposite, that generally, people are unskilled, teach them to actually try to follow the plan and rules, and trust that, just as you say, with experience, people will learn the essence of what you are suggesting in this tip without me having to tell them.

    Just a thought.

  2. Thanks for writing. I always appreciate feedback on the Tips.

    It is interesting to hear your perspective and see how you have made some interpretations that I didn’t intend. This is very instructive for me and I appreciate you taking the time to convey your interpretations.

    I hope you will call if you want to discuss more.

    Thanks again for your interest and thoughtful comments.

  3. Upon getting your response, I went back and reread the Tip. I now see how I got confused. Your first sentence and your second to last sentence seemed to contradict each other when I first read it and now I can see how they go together. The first sentence – “In principle, an amateur may follow the script perfectly, but a professional knows when to change the script or even leave it entirely depending on the energy of the audience.” – seemed to me to be about independent action (by the professional). The second to last sentence – “don’t make an independent decision to ignore it. Rather, work within established group processes to change it.” – clearly is working with the group. Taken together, the overall message is one of getting the group to make it’s plans and rules match it’s behavior, by changing them, if need be.

    Thanks for the clarity.

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