The USA has a new president. But many people are still surprised that in a democracy, the candidate with a higher absolute number of votes, did not win. This is because of the US system with “electors”.

Rules and regulations, but also processes and procedures are always created with a certain goal in mind. The challenge is to create a set that indeed leads to the goal that was intended. And without thorough thinking, wording (and often rewording) and testing (and/or reviewing), sometimes unwanted side-effects can be created.

A classic example is calculating the bonus of the sales person based on the volume sold. At first, this sounds like it is the best for the company. But it does not take into account the cost. It could motivate the sales person to sell 5-Euro-bills at the price of 4 Euros. He will have a great sales volume, but will not get his bonus as the company will be broke before the year-end evaluation. A better measure is the profitability, and still there one has to take into account more than just the sales-moment; the ratio sales price versus production cost might be good, but if the margin is completely consumed by the after-sales support, you’re still rewarding the wrong behavior.

I don’t know if the current election outcome is as intended by the people that originally created the United States Electoral College. But it should give food for thought to everybody involved in creating rules (or for that matter regulations, processes or procedures) that great care and scrutiny should be taken in writing them. If not, someone is bound to find a way to stay within the rules, but still reach a different result than what was intended.

 

I hope to have added a new “rule of thumb” to your list.

 

William