How to Make Rules That People Will Follow


Businesses have to make many decisions and set many rules right now. Maybe it’s the rules to keep customers safe, to make sure employees are well cared for, or maybe to comply with state and local laws to help control the epidemic. Or all of the above. All public entities are required to introduce new legislative changes and agreements.

There is nothing wrong with setting new rules, especially when doing so is in the best interests of others. The problem arises when you set rules out of context. Where there is no context, the background behind this law, there is little chance of getting people to follow.

Give people a reason to follow
There was a grassy church in a park-like area where the locals enjoyed walking their dogs. Unfortunately not all dog lovers who are parents are responsible for their furry children and leaving a lot of dog breeds that became a problem in the church. They put up signs asking people to pick up their dogs. It didn’t help. They have added to the warning signs of fines if they do not pick up after their dog. Have you ever seen that coercion? Most people are aware that this is a threat to doing nothing as you would expect, and the signs and threats of fines are ignored. Until someone makes sense. Signs read, “Children are playing here. Please bring your dog. ”


Apparently the problem of dog dung has stopped. It is because people are given a reason to follow the law. The signs, “Children play here” provided the context. Outside of the context people tend to simply ignore the request but it can also fuel resistance. We humans do not like to be told what to do without a specific explanation and reason for the request. The problem we have is we have a lot of business now, as the church did in the beginning, setting rules and not giving a strong reason to follow the law.

“Customer satisfaction is the best strategy in the business.”

Take away the confusion
I was sitting outside the store a few days ago watching a young woman trying to handle customers entering the store. There were two doors to the store and one set of two doors to the store. All trying to count and manage how many people were in the store at one time to keep everyone away from the community. To enter the store, there was a set way, a kind of cable cord as you will see at TSA airport. It’s easy enough to be seen. It’s not like we’ve never seen it before.


But not all people are familiar with this new pattern when shopping and many people are trying to get into what was now an exit option. He should have stopped everyone and redirected them to the end of the line. To make matters worse for reasons I do not understand, next to him was a dead rope access. The buyer needed to walk all the way to the beginning of the line on the other side. The whole process was unnecessarily confusing.

Why is the last entry dead? Why was the queue on the other side of the door? This additional problem was painful to watch and I could see feelings of young women and clients rising in frustration.

Give an explanation
Sometimes I sat at a table enjoying a cappuccino, or should I have a bit of enjoyment, as customer after customer tried to enter the store in front of me that had a locked door. There is no indication as to why the door is locked. Once again, it was a way to control how many people are in the store by reducing access to one door where one can count. That is easy enough.


People will follow if you describe them. Put a sign on the door that means more. For this, they needed a sign that read, “Please enter the first floor where we can count how many customers we serve to keep you safe.” And they didn’t do anything for themselves because if you don’t see the customers through the glass doors you can think they are closed. Simple explanation and perhaps even signs go a long way.

“Things are going very well for those who are doing their best to make things happen.” – John Wooden

Get everyone on the same side
A salesman in a men’s clothing store would explain to me the strict rules they had about trying on clothes. The evaluation rooms are now closed and retailers have been asked not to allow people to try items in the store. Apparently, some guys just dropped their pants and tried on things right there in the mall. Plus, they don’t let customers try anything on top of their clothes that need to be worn on your face, like a jersey you might want to try on a shirt. You mentioned that customers are really suffering.


I suggested he get customers on the same side. My suggestion was to the consumer, “I know it is stressful and we feel the same way. But here at xyz store, we chose to be part of the solution and not a problem so stay tuned again so you can continue shopping. “Providing a context will get everyone on the same side, set the same goal and explain the big problem. We want you to stay open so you can shop. Many customers want that too.

For businesses that do the right thing at these times and be part of the solution. In time, it will be easier for things to go back to normal, whatever normal. I am definitely in favor of businesses, especially small businesses, that hold back the right to self-determination, to make decisions that benefit them and to set rules. But in the business world, they are the ones who set the rules, providing the context. Explain the big picture with this rule. If laws are issued without adequate explanation you can be sure to resist disobedience. Providing context goes a long way.

Whether in the event of a change required or at any time when a business needs to set certain rules, the key is to promote compliance with a strong reason, eliminate confusion, provide adequate guidance, get everyone on the same side and make everyone’s life easier.




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