What Your Growing Company Can Learn from Deflategate

Deflategate has captured many people’s attention over the last three months. Some of those people, like me, will look for the lessons in how to handle everything from procedures to grievances. The issue that keeps rising to the surface for me, because I see it frequently in the growing companies I work in, is how to handle the breaking of some rule or policy.

What I see from the NFL, is their making it up as they go along. Now I may be biased (I admit to being a fan of the Patriots). But it seems inescapable that there is no consistent and well thought out procedure for handling the breaking of a rule. The NFL is consistent at penalizing offsides and too many players on the field. They are inconsistent when it comes to tampering with a football (if the Patriots even did that). See the Panthers and Vikings tampering incident from this past season, for comparison.  This is where the charge that they make it up as they go along comes from.

Learn from the NFL’s mistake. As your company grows, develop a process for handling misbehavior in all its human forms. Deliberate on what the process should be. Wait until the dust settles from the emotional upheaval of a transgression to do so. Write the process or procedure down. Be consistent in applying the process across the organization. Differentiate between levels of rule breaking and have ranges of consequences (make the punishment fit the crime). Have steps in punishment making it worse for repeat offenders. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Things change and both rules and consequences change. But having a narrow range of responses and thoughtful precedents helps.

If your organization is growing, it is only a matter of time before someone breaks a rule. Don’t make it up as you go. At least not after the first time.