Hello, my name is Bryan and I am a recovering creator of idiotic policies.
Related: ‘The Further Up a Company You Go, the More Stupid You Become’
We have all been exposed to these policies. You know, the ones that take a simple task and twist it into a ridiculous mess that’s confusing enough to make any bureaucrat grin. These hideous monstrosities usually involve complex paperwork, mindless signatures and pointless stamping.
The scariest thing is looking in the mirror one morning and realizing that you have become the very thing you loathe: an idiotic-policy mastermind.
There is, hope, however. Just follow this simple five-step process to reclaim your humanity:
1. Understand why it happens.
The genesis of most policy monsters is reactivity. Something bad happens and someone gets thrown under the bus. The first human response is to “make sure it never happens again” by implementing a policy that prevents it. But, stop! Think about whether the problem you are trying to fix is a systematic failure or just a mistake.
2. Stop trying to control everything.
I would suggest that all micromanaging policy fiends watch the cutting-edge business film The LEGO Movie. I identify with the villain, Lord Business, because he is just trying to keep everyone from messing with his perfect systems. The primary issue is that no one person has the right to dictate what “best practices” are, and an environment that attempts to control away failure is doomed to become a land of uncreative drone workers.
Step 3. Find a win-win solution.
Finding the win-win solution is so cliché, but unfortunately, it also happens to be true. In most cases win-lose policies are implemented to protect one person at the expense of another. The way to prevent that is to have solutions sessions where every possible solution is put on the table, including – the horror – just accepting that sometimes risk is unavoidable. Commit to implement only policies that are best for everyone, instead of policies that allow some people to cover their rear ends.
4. Commit to minimize.
What can be worse than having management implement a new policy with an added layer of complexity and process, while spouting the empty promise that the new policy will be “easy.” Change is never easy, and management needs to make room for that fact by committing to minimize complexity. If a complex policy is truly needed, reduce the complexity of another process to compensate.
5. Give the last look to the people who matter most.
If a policy is truly needed, then it should be handed over to the people who will be expected to implement it. Let them pick it apart before it gets implemented. I have never gotten pushback on a policy from someone who helped to create it. This isn’t a “show” to manipulate your team into compliance. And, besides, you might be surprised: You might actually learn something.
If you are like me, it can be hard to give up an idiotic-policy addiction. Creating a fresh new policy feels so empowering and scalable, and in many cases that feeling may be right. Just keep in mind that your team likely doesn’t share your enthusiasm, and you may need to change course before an idiotic-policy intervention is required.