Monday, February 13, 2012

The spirit of the rules

In a recent blog post I referenced the notion of taking into consideration the "spirit" of the GIPS(R) standards (Global Investment Performance Standards) to consider what would be permitted. Being ever mindful of the underlying "spirit" of the Standards, though often difficult to define, is critically important.

Some 35 years ago I worked for a software consulting firm, that was looking to hire new staff. And so, to encourage us to identify prospects, they rewarded anyone who provided management with names. Furthermore, if these folks got hired, the staff member would get an additional "bounty." One rather creative fellow decided to post a "help wanted" advertisement in the local paper, which resulted in quite a large number of resumes. Well, he was paid for each, but management quickly clarified that the idea was to refer people you knew, who you felt were (a) qualified and (b) would fit in with our culture. This fellow, while being industrious, perhaps, clearly went against the the spirit of the initial request; something anyone should have understood. Okay, and so the rules weren't as clearly defined as they might have been, but give me a break!

Twisting and turning rules to fit can justify almost any improper or inappropriate behavior. At dinner last night, with my wife, younger son and his friend, we briefly discussed the idea of someone qualifying why their actions might be acceptable; I'm sure that most thieves and rule breakers have somehow found justification for their actions. While on a recent flight, a fellow sitting next to me continued to have his cell phone on after the plane began to taxi. I suggested that perhaps he should turn it off. He was a bit offended by my request, but my belief is that if the airline bothers to tell us to turn these devices off, there must be a reason for it. He justified his action by saying that he was emailing his son, who has diabetes; I guess he wasn't able to do that until we were taxing. Oh, well.

And so, some things are clearly black and white, while there are other times when there may be gray areas, in which case being mindful of the spirit of the rules should help direct our choices.

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