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Policies & Rules - a Pragmatic Approach

July 5, 2023

Well, who would have thought that one of the major international talking points this past week (at least amongst the world’s cricket playing nations) would be on the interpretation of Law 38 of the Laws of Cricket!!

The stumping of England batsman Johnny Bairstow and the subsequent furore regarding perceived poor sportsmanship and allegations of “not being in the spirit of the game” have reached into the hallowed Lords Members Stand and the front and sporting pages of hundreds of publications around the world. Even Prime Ministers Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese have joined the commentary, which to my recollection is the first time cricket has been elevated to this level since the Bodyline series of the 1930’s.

While the umpires have ruled that the dismissal was entirely within the rules of the game, various sporting dignitaries past and present have expressed the opinion that at times such Laws need to be flexibly applied, including the provision for the fielding captain to have a veto power to reverse invoking such Laws (by withdrawing an appeal).

Flexibility in the Workplace

You may be wondering what is the relevance of this sporting controversy, and how it translates to our workplace? All of us, especially those who work within the Public Sector, operate in organisations whose mandates and operations are governed by a fairly rigid framework of legislation, policies, procedures, rules and guidelines. Such a framework is essential to ensure transparency, accountability, effective use of public monies and acceptable behaviour by staff members, while ensuring the objectives of the organisation are being realised.

However, there are times when emerging issues, human behaviour and/or a lack of precedent places delegated decision makers in the difficult position of having to make a choice between inflexibly applying the “letter of the law”, or adopting a more pragmatic approach to addressing a particular issue.

Practical Examples

A classic example of this was the very effective manner in which most organisations responded to the Covid pandemic, whereby innovative flexible working arrangements and service delivery approaches were rapidly adopted by management and staff, notwithstanding they may have not been consistent with prevailing Industrial Relations rules and policies.  In relation to business continuity and the provision of ongoing quality services to the clients of such organisations, previously unheard of flexible service delivery arrangements were agreed upon by all parties and rapidly implemented.

Another example was the morphing of the fieldwork components of internal audit and risk management reviews from previously being almost entirely on-site to the current, more cost-effective and equally compliant hybrid of remote and onsite components. This hybrid model has proven to be so successful that it is expected to continue well beyond covid.

While governing Legislation and related Departmental Policies must be respected and religiously complied with, recent occurrences have shown there is still scope for flexibility to apply practical and client-centric interpretation of the procedures related to such governance frameworks. When exercising this flexibility it is important to be totally transparent, ensure all key stakeholders are involved and fully informed and that all key decisions and supporting documents are documented and securely stored.

Because after all, no one wants to be caught out or bowled over by an unexpected googly!!

Further Information?

If you would like to explore how Centium’s assurance and transformation specialists can help your organisation flexibly manage the unexpected during periods of change, please contact: Phil O’Toole, Managing Director at phil.otoole@centium.com.au.

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