Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

Aligning Behavior And Results With Goals: Dealing With Unwritten Rules

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If the goals of your firm call for changed behaviors, and you think you've set out the rules and incentives to move towards those goals, but there is resistance or counteractivity, you need to surface and examine the unwritten rules. You need to figure out what is important to people, who can give it to them, and how, despite the official rules and channels, they go about getting it.

Whether your firm functions in a relatively ad hoc manner or it has more centralized management with many formal rules, as any organization, it is also run by unwritten rules. While these can be helpful, they can also be a serious obstacle to achieving stated objectives. An organization must identify them and take them seriously because they frequently conflict with written rules and policies for change and improvement.

These unwritten rules really drive individual behavior because their existence means people have identified what it is in their self interest to do or not to do regardless of stated firm objectives. Unwritten rules infiltrate every aspect of an organization, affecting how to get assigned to the most desirable projects, who to be seen with, how to get promoted and what financial indicators and performance attributes are important to firm management.

Surface the Unwritten Rules

Unwritten rules have been defined as “sensible ways to act given written rules and top management's behavior.” So firm leaders and managers would be wise to assess whether people are being rewarded more highly, more directly and more quickly by ignoring the written (or spoken) rules and following some other set rather than the officially articulated ones. What are their motivators and triggers (conditions people think they need to satisfy in order to get what they want)?

Management is often unaware of what the unwritten rules are. Starting with your identification of a specific problem (x is happening when we are trying to accomplish y), we will help you surface the unwritten rules through a structured interview process and to understand why they exist.

Facilitate Management Workshop to Find Solutions

The purpose of the workshop is three-fold: 1) to list the perceived risks and opportunities that the problem can cause for your firm and business and establish priorities for addressing them; 2) to agree on the behaviors you would like to see replace the current behaviors; and 3) to decide on the actions necessary to remove the barriers to achieving the goals.

Help You Achieve Change

Rather than give you recommendations and leave you to fend for yourself, we stay on to work as a partner with you to implement change in whatever manner we agree is appropriate.


Call 212-593-1549 or e-mail Phyllis at for a confidential exploratory discussion on how to make this work for your firm.