The Monsters of Compliance – Gremlins


I finally grabbed some pumpkins and put some garish Halloween decorations on my front lawn. My mind has become stuck on movie monsters and been mixed with compliance. This is the terrible result.

Mogwai, the gremlin was sold subject to three rules:

  1. Never expose it to sunlight.
  2. Never get it wet.
  3. Never, ever feed it after midnight.

Billy, the young owner, violates the first rule when he accidentally spills a glass of water on Mogwai. The result is five new gremlins, each more mischievous than Mogwai. This was the start of trouble.

Billy learned the rule about water in a vacuum, not knowing the results. Perhaps if he knew that spilling water on Mogwai would create such trouble he would have been more careful. Perhaps he would not have kept a glass of water on his nightstand next to Mogwai.

I think there is an obvious compliance lesson there. Rules can’t be promulgated without some explanation about the consequences of violating the rule. You need to let your people know that there is a good reason for having the rule and the bad things that can be prevented by following the rule.

Billy breaks the third rule when he is tricked. The mischievous gremlins bit through the power cord of his clock, tricking him into believing that their request for food was coming well before midnight. Billy knew he was not supposed to feed the gremlins after midnight and tried to comply with the rule. After seeing the result of breaking the second rule he knew strange things could happen by breaking the rules.  He did not know how bad it could be. The cute fuzzy gremlins metamorphosed into terrible scary monsters.

Billy had a control failure. If he knew the result of breaking the rule, he probably would have put a stronger control in place to prevent breaking the rule. If he knew that double checking the time could save his town from destruction, I bet he would have put more effort into confirming the time before feeding the gremlins.

The first rule ends up saving Billy and his town. He had learned his lesson when accidentally exposing Mogwai to a glimpse of sunlight. It hurt the creature. He ended up using that rule to his advantage and killed the leader of the gremlins with sunlight. He knew the consequences of breaking that first rule.

In the end, Billy was not worthy of Mogwai because he was unable to follow the rules. He was subject to sanctions when the Mogwai was taken away. There are consequences for breaking the rules in horror movies.