Good Judgement

Last month I reviewed a few presentation on Slideshare and made a note about Hubspot‘s policy approach. I remembered that during a walk at the beach while thinking about management principles. This is the note:

We don’t have pages of policies, instead we have a 3 word policy on just everything:


I instantaneously liked it and that’s why I wrote it down.

It reminded me of a security review where the auditors commented: “You have good policies and there are quite a few. Consider consolidating and simplifying.” Hubspot has not only simplified but furthermore told their staff implicitly:

“We trust you are doing the right thing.”

In today’s climate where old school management is still used in the majority of organisations this approach is a management mindshift. It’s huge.

Let me go back when I last joined an organisation or even when I hired a new person. The information pack included something like the core conditions of employment, something about security and internet use, something about health and safety, and something specific to the industry. In total we are talking about 60 pages.

Now, let me guess what a potential employee will remember “use good judgement” or 60 pages of detailed do’s and don’t’s?

This is of course a principle and in certain circumstances there is no space for a grey area. A clear “yes, this is okay” or “No, do not do this” is necessary.


Hubspot provides the people with some simple guidelines to make good decisions:

  • team over self
  • organisation over team
  • customer over organisation

For example, taking a day off is okay unless it’s D-Day for a core project. It gets tricky if financials are involved that benefit the customer and hurt the sustainability of organisation. At this point it is important to point out the “over” word in the guidelines. This doesn’t mean “instead”, it means “if in doubt a higher preference is usually assigned”.

How does it work?

In Christchurch there is a High School following similar principals. Their focus is on “project based learning” and give students a great freedom to fulfill the curriculum. They also have guidelines called “code of conduct”:

  • Safety first and respect always
  • Choice also comes with being responsible
  • High trust with mutual respect and kindness 
  • Rights also come with obligations

These principles echo a very important word and concept: RESPECT

Respect towards others: colleagues, customers, teachers, supporters and business partners.

Respect towards the organisations equipment, resources and trust.

Is it for everybody?

This question nagged at me for some time. Is everybody happy with such an arrangement, can everybody deal with the freedom and the responsibility, does everybody treat this with the same respect? Or are some people crushed by choice, unable to make the right decision balancing own, family, team, organisation and customer needs? Then there could be some who favour self over team, and team over organisation. By doing so, they outsmart and misuse the provided opportunities.

I believe an organisation following the principles of trust must ensure they employ the right people.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

During the past few weeks I read “The Designful Company” by Marty Neumeier:

FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” recently named Google number one. In fact, the company receives over a hundred applicants for every position. Why? Because of the free lunches? The day care? The stock options? Not likely, because many others on the list offer similar perks. Instead, it’s because of Google’s lofty vision. When employees are asked to help “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” hearts beat a little faster. Financial enticements and office perquisites pale beside the soul-stirring goal of a race to the moon.

I think this BHAG combined with Hubspot’s trust approach makes a fantastic combination. This attracts people who want to work here having a motivation outside of the ordinary. And as such are less likely to fall into the 20% zone left and right of the bell curve for the ideal employee in such an organisation.

Over to you:

How do you feel about working for such an organisation?

How does your current organisation fit your requirements?

2 comments on “Good Judgement

  1. […] Don’t get me wrong, some are necessary, some are good, and some (most ?) are covering exceptions. Those are the ones slowing us down. Shouldn’t we go back to “Use good judgement?” […]

  2. […] to be quite honest I haven’t thought about all the different aspects of respect myself. And when I listened recently to a HBR podcast on the topic, I realised how simplistic my […]

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