Business Rules, Simplified

When people ask me about the most healthful workplace I’ve worked in, I get a bit nostalgic for the years I spent at PeopleSoft.

“What made it so special?” people ask. Recently I had the chance to talk with the co-founder of the company, Dave Duffield, who now is co-CEO at Workday, and told him what I share with others when they ask.

“It was Dave’s rules–or lack there of them–that set the tone and conveyed to everyone the company was out of the ordinary. Quirky, candid, and with the right priorities in mind,” I say. Dave sent them out quarterly through email entitled, “Dave’s Rules of Business Behavior.”

A decade later, I dug up the rules to share them with you here. Perhaps you’ll modify them to establish a wonderful environment for great work to thrive. Although the specific names may not mean anything to readers unfamiliar with the leadership at PeopleSoft, I suspect you can glean enough from the simple, people-focused themes to get started now. Have fun.

My favorite rules are #1 and #4, by the way. Which are yours?

Dave’s Rules of Business Behavior

Business Rule #1. Keep the Restrooms Clean.

Yes, I’ve been associated with this Business Rule from the early days of
PeopleSoft, and it’s even more important now than it was then. I remember either listening to, or reading from one of Tom Peters’ famous books on Customer Service. He gave an example of a passenger getting onto a plane, sitting down, and finding his fold-down tray covered with some mung from the previous flight. The passenger’s thought: “Wow. If they can’t handle the easy things like keeping the aircraft clean, how can they possibly deal with the hard things like engine maintenance?”

The customer/prospect analogy at PeopleSoft: “Wow, if they can’t keep the
restrooms clean, how can they possibly develop quality products?”

So, … please pay attention to the little things like keeping the restrooms, kitchens, hallways, and other public places — even your personal work area Ron, Rick, and Aneel — as clean as possible. Our prospects and customers will think more kindly toward our products and services.

Business Rule #2. When Away, Use DND.

DND = Do Not Disturb

Most everyone — including Peggy Taylor — is guilty of not using DND, and most everyone has been frustrated when trying to phone a fellow employee and have the phone ring 5 times only to find the person is away from his/her desk. This is equally frustrating to customers and prospects trying to reach us. They probably even think, “If they don’t have the courtesy of placing their phones on DND, I can’t imagine what their restrooms look like.”

So, … when you’re away from your desk for more than 10 seconds, place your phone on DND. In this manner, any person trying to reach you will immediately receive your voice message, and will not have to wait for the 5 rings to finish. Equally important, your adjacent co-workers can remain productive rather than being steamed at you for leaving your phone on YDD (Yes, Do Disturb). And keep in mind for your own self-interests, there are a bunch of crazies out there who would think nothing of blowing away their own family members for lesser crimes than leaving a phone on YDD.

Business Rule #3. Keep Up With Your Voicemail.

How many of us enjoy the all-too-familiar “Phonemail System Voice Storage is full. Please delete those messages which are not needed”. And there’s no way to bypass this sucker. So we’re all being punished because a few of us have to save every flippin’ message Mark Jacobs has sent us.

A career side-benefit: If you keep up with your voicemail, people will actually think you’re doing work, even though you’re probably out on the golf course.

Business Rule #4. Don’t Kiss Up and Slap Down.

This is mostly a rule for people who have other people working for them (or, at least think they do). We’ve had — I emphasize HAD — a couple of people at PeopleSoft who thought proper business behavior was to play business kissy-face with one’s boss, and possibly the boss’s boss, all the while playing slappy-face with the people they manage. In other words, they play Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis with their superiors and Atilla the Hun with those they manage.

It’s a good career idea at PeopleSoft to behave consistently regardless of who you’re dealing with. Treat fellow employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, Betty Landes at Ackerman, and the bagel delivery people with the same respect and courtesy you’d offer the late Jerry Garcia.

Business Rule #5. Don’t Attach Big-Mother Files to your Notes.

How many of us have been out in some Caribbean island, one or more rum
concoctions in hand, attached to the local phone system (where the rates are published in bold, 24-point sans serif type), replicating your mail file, only to wait an eternity to get that one important message that Jeff Beinke has sent you — something about a Kim Carothers HR demonstration to a Florida-based men’s lingerie company for the vertically challenged. You might have to go through another rum thing or two before the replication is complete. Frustrating isn’t it?

Business Rule #6. Paging and Productivity are Antonyms.

How many times have you been involved with desk-checking a four-dimensional loop of actuarial calculations when from overhead you hear: “Anthony Damaschino, please dial *81, Anthony Damaschino, *81”. It’s back to the beginning of desk-checking for you.

Not only is this anti-productive for you, your co-workers, and our receptionist, but Anthony doesn’t like to have his name mentioned in public — something which dates back to our original bowling league with Jim Bozzini’s pink bowling ball.

So, … please only use the paging capabilities when absolutely necessary. In fact, I’ve asked several right-wing anti-paging enthusiasts to craft their own business rule for paging. Here goes:

“Excessive paging and unmonitored ringing telephones are disruptive to
co-workers. Realistically determining your availability and communicating this to your customers and co-workers will allow for fewer interruptions and greater accessibility to everyone.”

They’re so right-wing they even had to get a dig in regarding the telephones.

Business Rule #7. Be A Tightwad.

I’m a tightwad — I eliminated cookies from catered lunch menus, except those for customers and prospects. Even eliminated them from our quarterly Board of Directors’ meetings. I still pick up pennies off the street. Howard Gwin may not pick up pennies, but he does dimes or better. Peggy too — she clips coupons. But I’ve recently heard some really gut-wrenching examples of people unnecessarily wasting PeopleSoft money. Unbelievable stuff like people opting for more expensive flights or hotel rooms just so they can get extra miles or “points”. That makes a tightwad like me really P-Oed. You can bet that this is not the kind of Profitability our core values refer to. And as one employee said
to me recently in a note, “the little things, [like this] if abused, really suck for the entire company.”

Besides Anthony Damaschino’s salary, travel is our company’s biggest expense. You probably know how Al Castino and the Travel Squad are planning to get travel costs under control by requiring pre-approvals. (I’m not sure yet what we’re doing to get Anthony’s salary under control). In fact, there are plenty more ways we can all save the company money. Think twice about getting on a plane to attend a meeting — conference call or videoconference in. Schedule flights with layovers where much lower rates are available. Re-use office supplies. Don’t send all mail via Fed Ex. And PL-EEEEEASE, take advantage of pre-negotiated hotel rates. Treat PeopleSoft resources like they’re your own — and they are.

Frugality can have a big impact on our bottom line — and therefore our stock price and your current and future worth. Ask Peggy. It sure saves on her groceries.

Business Rule #8. Use PeopleSoft Systems and Equipment With Discretion.

No pussy footing around here: Do not use your computer, email, or other
PeopleSoft supplies or equipment for any activities that would make your mother question her decision to be a parent. PeopleSoft provides you with the best equipment available to help you do your job better, not to support wacked-out extracurricular activities. Flame mails and offensive Internet activities are not classy. Don’t send this stuff around. And don’t post it on PeoplePeopleTalk. It doesn’t fit in with our culture here, where we respect the gender, race, opinions, ear-lobe apparel, and choice of clothing of all employees. As you well know, PeopleSoft is a business, not a frat house. (Plus, this kind of stuff drives Larry Butler nuts — or more so than usual.)

So sure, you may need to send your accountant an email message. Or you may need to copy some important personal documents. That’s cool. We’d rather you use PeopleSoft equipment and systems rather than cut into your productivity by chasing all over town looking for a Kinko’s, especially since they’re not a customer yet.

No doubt this rule is subjective, but I’m sure you can figure out what’s
appropriate in our workplace and what’s not.


Photo credit: Rule by Thomas Hawk

Business Rules, Simplified