How to Play by the Unwritten Rules

How to Play by the Unwritten Rules

The unwritten rules are the real rules.

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years and repeated the most becomes 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 bent.

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. 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 the unwritten rules as you make any change that goes against one of them. (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.