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Designing and implementing rules, policies, procedures and controls has become one of the mainstays of governance, risk and compliance professionals. Let's think about this.

Yesterday, I narrowly avoided an accident.

The oncoming car had drifted across just a little too far. My heart skipped and I felt like I held my breath for what seemed a lifetime.

We are all guided by the white lines in the middle of the road. They prompt us, perhaps keep us, from crossing over to the other side and help us to avoid the risk of collision.

The research, however, on the effectiveness of these lines is interesting. It reports that we actually drive faster and with much less care when there are lines to guide us. Equally, when there aren’t, we drive slower and with more caution.

Sometimes, the rules to which we are being asked to conform actually encourage us or tempt us to take more risks, drive faster, with less care.

When we design the systems, processes and controls within our organisations (the rules), we need to be careful that by doing so we don’t encourage higher levels of risk taking as a consequence.

Sometimes, rules are not what’s needed, just better norms.

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