• Parents and family
  • Ourselves
  • Society (including religion)
  • Organizations we work for
  • Government.

Our first rules as individuals

We first experienced rules as children from our parents. Perhaps the first rules we remember are about not eating dessert until we are done with our main meal, and about bedtime. Hundreds of parental rules and teachings become part of our personal rules. And as we age we become subject to more rules from different places, including from schools and government and society.

Our personal rules

Based on our upbringing and experiences, we develop personal rules that guide our conduct. Sometimes this is known as one’s conscience, ethics, integrity, moral compass, values, or personal honor. Consider the “Golden Rule” to do unto others only as you would wish done to you. Our personal rules are heavily influenced by external forces and are not fixed in stone.

Early societal rules

Ever since humans began living together in communities, their groups imposed rules. These rules were helpful to obtain food to eat, shelter, and protection. There might need to be a division of labor regarding who might hunt, gather, farm, cook, build, clean, or fight. Individuals needed to conform to certain rules for the greater good. Religion has played important roles in societal rules to influence behavior and establish codes of conduct.

Government rules (“external rules”)

In my work as a lawyer with organizations and their cybersecurity, privacy, compliance, policies and procedures, I find it helpful to think of external rules. An external rule is imposed upon a person or organization from outside, such as from the government. Obvious examples of such external rules are laws and regulations. Criminal laws are important external rules we should comply with. Then there are a myriad number of civil laws, including specific statutes and general legal principles for areas such as negligence and contract.

Ethical, criminal, and civil rules in context

Ethics, civil law, and criminal law compared

Internal rules of an organization

Internal rules are those that individuals, families, or organizations create.

  • Policies (general rules)
  • Standards (more detailed rules)
  • Procedures (highly detailed steps to accomplish a task)
  • Guidelines (guidance, but not a rule)
  • Charters
  • Plans
  • Handbooks
  • Manuals
  • Employee agreements (codes of conduct, NDAs, confidentiality, etc.)
  • More!


Well, guidance is not a rule, it is just a guide that we can follow, adapt to our needs, or disregard. But as organizations create internal rules, they might seek external guidance to develop those rules, and they might provide their employees with guidance (suggestions but not rules).

Fairness of the rule and fairness of enforcement

Rules can be fair, unfair, or somewhere in between, and there will usually be room for reasonable people to debate that.

  1. What is the rule (or what should it be), and
  2. How should the rule be enforced and punished,

Action (what we do)

Let’s not forget an important third aspect. Government creates and enforces rules for its inhabitants, and organizations create rules for its employees. The third aspect is what people actually do — their action or practice. Those acts might be in compliance with rules or not, and sometimes it is hard to say either way and fodder for reasonable debate. The general goal is to get people to behave in accordance with external and internal rules.

Bandler’s Three Platforms to Connect

Building internal rules

Creating and updating internal organizational rules is an important task and it should be done well.


This quick primer helps put some more complex topics (laws, regulations, policies, and procedures) within a common framework we are all familiar with — “Rules”.

Additional reading

This article is also hosted at my website at where I also include links for additional reading, and it may be more current and with improved formatting.
Copyright John Bandler all rights reserved.
Posted to Medium on 8/18/2022 based on my website article. Last updated here on 8/18/2022.



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John Bandler

John Bandler

Cybersecurity, cybercrime prevention, privacy, law, more. Attorney, consultant, author, speaker, teacher. Find me at