Procedures, company policies, controls, and rules in general are how organizations function efficiently, effectively, ethically, and within the regulations and law of the land. Yet, I have found that sometimes the rigidity of a rule around exceptions becomes a difficult quandary that the individual will constantly face. You could call it the "gray area" of life.
During my years at Accenture, I felt that each employee had the responsibility to decide where the exception would over-ride the rule. I learned sometimes that it was better to act (and accept the consequences) that to ask for permission (especially in the gray areas of rule interpretation). In fact my opinion of employees was based on their confidence (and ethics) of interpreting the rule themselves and acting ( a form of personal career risk taking).
Equally important to following rules (or breaking them where appropriate) is establishing controls. Pre controls are the most expensive, cumbersome and time consuming and should be carefully evaluated for risk/return before implementing. I prefer post controls for the very reason it delegates responsibility to the employees and the efficient procedures and yet maintains a oversight role to catch improper activities or mistakes.
No control (pre or post) really means no rule. That is the definition of broken.
Post Blog: 5/22/13 I was listening to a Podcast at www.philcooke.com where he quoted Ernest Hemmingway on rules:
"First thing to do is learn all the rules. The second thing to do is throw them out the window"