An organization becomes bureaucratic when there is policy, process, procedure and guidelines for everything that gets done. Employees working there follow them without regard to the impact it has on customers or end-users. Getting things done becomes a challenge and carrying change becomes an uphill task. Policies and processes are required but they can't make an enterprise tardy and slow to respond to customers and the changes. Bureaucracy can happen in many forms in organizations. If not controlled, it can multiply fast and make an organization ineffective. For senior executives and managers, the hunt for signs of bureaucracy has to be an ongoing process.
Let me share with you five common signs to look for:
1. Processes taking precedence over outcomes
What this means is getting things done requires time and is mired with administrative requirements. For example, changing a meeting room carpet in a company took six months as it had to go through multiple approvals.
2. Decision making is tardy
This happens either because people are hesitant to take decisions or because it involves multiple committees, complying with outdated policies and so on. In a large financial services company, every decision that had to be made by the CEO had first go through the key members of the top management and then the front-office of the CEO. The latter was housed with inexperienced people who sat over the matter as they could not size up the issue. This delayed decision making and many important matters remained undecided for long.
3. New ideas don’t see the light of the day
What happens here is new ideas are greeted with scepticism, indifference and practices within the company go all out to kill them. In an IT company, when the boss realized that a new hire started suggesting ideas for improvement, he snubbed him and told him to focus on his assigned tasks and not find mistakes
4. Employees are saddled with non-core activities
They spend the majority of their time resolving turf issues, following up on things, attending meetings, preparing reports etc. A sales team in a consumer goods company spent half of their time in the office, following up on products that were often delivered late to the distributors and retailers.
5. Customers struggle to get things done
Whether it’s ordering a product or solving a problem, the customers are made to follow senseless protocols to get things done. When a customer wanted to get his incorrect billing corrected for his mobile phone connection, he had to make multiple visits to their local office and talk to various officers.
If you see any of the above in your organization, it’s time to take action.
The article has been authored by Debashis Sarkar, who is the Managing Partner at Proliferator Advisory & Consulting.
Check out the title Little Big Things in Operational Excellence by Debashis Sarkar, which presents a groundbreaking way of doing things and define strategies to identify and prioritize opportunities, implement improvement plans, monitor, continuously improve and sustain results.