Re-Cycling Shut-Down … Let’s Face It – Some Rules Are Just Silly!
From late 1974 to mid 1977, I worked in IT at one of the largest public schools districts in the country.
You’re probably too young to remember, but those were the days of mainframe computers. Virtually all software development was done in-house, in batch. Jobs were submitted as decks of cards (sometimes quite large) and came back as paper print-outs (several hours or even a day later). Often, a job had to be rerun many times to get it right. The outputs took the form of over-sized, folded listings sometimes inches thick. Systems administration produced even larger listings, sometimes over a foot thick. Computers in those days must have been a gold mine for paper companies. I’m sure there are landfills all across North America chock-full of discarded paper from the era.
Some of us thought it was a shame (actually, shameful) all that paper just got tossed. So we organized a recycling scheme. We found a storage room. We got everyone to stack throw-away card decks and listings beside their desks, then we picked it up after work every few days. Twice a month or so, we called a recycling company to come get it. They’d give us checks, which we would endorse over to charities chosen by fellow employees. The checks totaled as much as $50 to $100. We kept all the paperwork. Everything went fine for the best part of a year, gathering steam as it went. We felt pretty good about it all.
Then one day some higher-ups from outside the IT Department got wind of the scheme. They put an immediate stop to it.
Technically the discarded paper was property of the school district. Naturally there were rules against selling any school property outside proper channels – including trash(!). As long as the paper was just thrown out, everything was fine. The minute any value was gained from it, they said it violated the rules.
Crazy logic! We argued strenuously, but you can guess the outcome. The rules were the rules. So back to the landfills went all that paper.
Tags: dumb rules, rules say must not, silly rules
Ronald G. Ross
Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.