The Busting Bureaucracy Hackathon

Phase 3: Ideas for Busting Bureaucracy (Part 1)

Stop following the rules: Creation vs. Compliance

By Sean Schofield on July 17, 2021

Outside of legal compliance, let us assume that rules, process, procedure, etc. are created for the sole and exclusive purpose of adding, preserving, or avoiding the diminution of value. However, if what is valued or deemed valuable changes, then they probably no longer useful. It's like milk. When it's expired, no one should be consuming it.

Let us also assume that you hire smart people, to use their smarts and talents, for the sole and exclusive purpose of adding, preserving or avoiding the diminution of value. They are capable of seeing when things, like rules, processes and procedures are no longer useful.

You wouldn't ask or force anyone to drink obviously expired milk. So, don't ask your or force employees to comply with expired rules. It's as unhealthy as drinking bad milk, probably worse. Ok, enough with the milk comparisons.

A solution: encourage your smart people to focus on the creation and protection of value, not on complying to rules, and especially not on complying to useless rules.

First Steps 

(1) Trust your employees. Presumably you hired them to do great work and you believe in their capacity to deliver it.

(2) Let them know it.

(3) Be explicit that you don't care about rules, you care about results, you care about value. Regularly discuss and model what that means and encourage them to use their judgement about how best to deliver value. Ask them to keep track of what helps and hinders them in their pursuit. Be prepared to champion / defend their pursuit of value vs. compliance with rules.

(4) Every so often (biweekly, monthly, whatever frequency makes sense) sit down and have conversations about what is helping and hindering the creation or protection of value. Whenever a rule, process, or procedure is getting in stop following it. If possible, improve it. Otherwise, go back to (3).

(5) At the end of a meaningful period (e.g., quarter) identify all aspects helping and hindering value creation and share it with others. Presumably, they care about value too and would be happy to stop complying with time wasting value agnostic (or harmful) rules. They may even be more prone to do so when they see how you and your team are behaving and the difference it makes.

If there are enough people ignoring or improving what doesn't work, hopefully you are left with what does. If you can't achieve scale, then hopefully at least you can carve out a better, saner, more inspiring way of working for and with your team.

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