Breaking the rules – Virtually

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Originally published by Bev Matthews – 3rd August 2020

During COVID-19 people have been saying that decision making has become easier, quicker and more streamlined and they feel they have more authority to act. 

There’s a sense that colleagues have been breaking the “rules” that unintentionally get in the way of being able to do a good job. What are the “rules” in your organisation that we need to break, or keep breaking? 

They might be actual rules (policies or processes) or perceived rules (unspoken rules that people just follow). What are your ideas for alternatives or solutions to some of the existing rules? 

Rules are important. They keep us and our patients safe. Rules ensure fairness. They help make sure that everyone knows what to do. They keep the health and care system operating every day. 

But there is a downside to rules. Often they have an unintended impact on us and the people we serve. They can make us feel that we cannot innovate or improve things because we don’t have “permission”. Rules sometimes contribute to a culture of conformity and get in the way of intelligent judgement and actually doing what is right. 

So, in suggesting that you break the “rules” we aren’t asking you to create havoc in your organisation! Rather, we are asking you to think about the rules, customs, ways of working, habits, policies, and procedures that get in the way of great care and great team working. Rules that restrict more than they enable deserve to be broken. 

In August 2018 we developed a facilitators guide as part of the Transforming Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery programme August 30 Day Challenge.  

The guide was developed to support facilitators to deliver the session in a physical environment and across the Horizons team we have been creating slides which can help you to deliver this session virtually: 

We suggest that people work in small groups in breakout rooms of between four to seven people or using a creative approach such as this: 

Before moving participants into the breakout rooms make sure they have a copy of the link in the chat box to the tool that you are using to capture their conversations, in this example we used a Jam Board. Jam Boards have a limit of people per board, you will need to use multiple boards if you have more than 50 participants: 

You are now ready to open your breakout rooms

Here’s an example of how you can encourage your participants to work together to develop ideas for solutions which break the “rules”. 

Once you have identified your potential solutions you can then either set this frame up in Jam Board within your session or ask participants to transfer their solutions off line ready for a later session. 


Always do a demo of the Jam Board and use it as a fun activity at the beginning of the session for people to get to know each other whilst practising with the board. Here’s a demo one we use as well as a live run through by one of the team. This blog that may be helpful too