drudgeryCompliance is out of control. Its pervasive in our society now and there is no going back. Allow me to explain.

My kid attends pre-school. They go outside daily to play, so we were asked to provide some sunblock. Makes sense, our family is pale so we are used to that routine. We brought it in, signed a legal release (sigh), and we were good to go.

Or so we thought.

We receive an email later in the day saying that they cannot use an aerosol can and we need to provide sunblock that is a cream. Now this wasn’t communicated to us previously so that’s disappointing  but the real issue is the promulgation of the phrase, “It’s our policy…” The use of this term is quickly becoming a death of a thousand cuts.

How far is this to be taken? Would they have compelled my kid to go outside in the sun to burn, while the unopened sunblock sat idly by, not protecting them from an inappropriate amount of UVA/UVB? Would they have sat self-satisfied that policy boxes were checked while children roasted in the midday sun?

“It’s our policy that we don’t use aerosol cans to apply sunblock. It might get in their eyes.”

Well its not pepper spray; its not meant to be sprayed in the eyes. Everyone knows the trick about spraying it into your hand and then apply it to your face. I’m about ready to build my own set of personal policies (“That’s unfortunate, but its my policy that children not burn in the sun when sunblock is within arm’s reach”), effectively pitting policy against policy in a byzantine Mexican standoff of bureaucracy and drudgery.

Since I see the world through a risk lens, I see this as a failure in risk management. Which would have exposed this organization to greater risk? The remote possibility of face spraying, or the near certitude that skin will burn? In this case, the robotic adherence to policy actually INCREASED risk in the organization by promoting what is effectively negligence.

Thankfully, the outside activity that day took the kids through a shady grove, so no sunburn ensued, but this is a great example of where compliance regimes exceed risk tolerance and that actually increases risk.