Re-Cycling Shut-DownLet's Face It — Some Rules Are Just Silly!

Ronald G.  Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC) Read Author Bio       || Read All Articles by Ronald G. Ross

From late 1974 to mid 1977, I worked in IT at one of the largest public schools districts in the country.

You're probably too young to remember, but those were the days of mainframe computers.  Virtually all software development was done in-house, in batch.  Jobs were submitted as decks of cards (sometimes quite large) and came back as paper print-outs (several hours or even a day later).  Often, a job had to be rerun many times to get it right.  The outputs took the form of over-sized, folded listings, sometimes inches thick.  Systems administration produced even larger listings, sometimes over a foot thick.  Computers in those days must have been a gold mine for paper companies.  I'm sure there are landfills all across North America chock full of discarded paper from the era.

Some of us thought it was a shame (actually, shameful) all that paper just got tossed.  So we organized a recycling scheme.  We found a storage room.  We got everyone to stack throw-away card decks and listings beside their desks, then we picked it up after work every few days.  Twice a month or so, we called a recycling company to come get it.  They'd give us checks, which we would endorse over to charities selected by fellow employees.  The checks totaled as much as $50 to $100.  Everything went fine for the best part of a year, gathering steam as it went.  We felt pretty good about it all.

Then one day some higher-ups from outside the IT Department got wind of the scheme.  They put an immediate stop to it.

Technically the discarded paper was property of the school district.  Naturally there were rules against selling any school property outside proper channels — including trash(!).  As long as the paper was just thrown out, everything was fine.  The minute any value was gained from it, they said it violated the rules.

Crazy logic!  We argued strenuously, but you can guess the outcome.  The rules were the rules.  So back to the landfills went all that paper.

Know silly #rules?  See LinkedIn group RulesSayMustNot & share!  Not a member?  Join today — Don't miss out on all the fun!

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Standard citation for this article:

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Ronald G. Ross, "Re-Cycling Shut-DownLet's Face It — Some Rules Are Just Silly!" Business Rules Journal, Vol. 14, No. 5, (May 2013)

About our Contributor:

Ronald  G. Ross
Ronald G. Ross Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC , Executive Editor, Business Rules Journal and Co-Chair, Building Business Capability (BBC)

Ronald G. Ross is Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rule Solutions, LLC, where he actively develops and applies the BRS Methodology including RuleSpeak®, DecisionSpeak and TableSpeak.

Ron is recognized internationally as the "father of business rules." He is the author of ten professional books including the groundbreaking first book on business rules The Business Rule Book in 1994. His newest are:

Ron serves as Executive Editor of and its flagship publication, Business Rules Journal. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences world-wide. More than 50,000 people have heard him speak; many more have attended his seminars and read his books.

Ron has served as Chair of the annual International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference where he serves as Co-Chair. He was a charter member of the Business Rules Group (BRG) in the 1980s, and an editor of its Business Motivation Model (BMM) standard and the Business Rules Manifesto. He is active in OMG standards development, with core involvement in SBVR.

Ron holds a BA from Rice University and an MS in information science from Illinois Institute of Technology. Find Ron's blog on For more information about Ron visit Tweets: @Ronald_G_Ross

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