In many companies people are frustrated. They feel they’re running hard and putting in a lot of effort, but they’re not making much of an impact, and this is often due to the difficulty of getting work done.
Yves Morieux has pointed out that the twin problems of stagnant productivity and low employee engagement share the same root cause, the increasing complicatedness of work and the growth of bureaucracy. Fighting complexity, according to Morieux, is the number one battle for all business leaders.
Yves is not alone in worrying about this. Gary Hamel is appalled at the damage being done to the global economy by bureaucratisation. He argues there is a 3 trillion dollar wealth-creating opportunity in tackling bureaucracy, and pleads with business leaders to get to grips with it.
These are some of the issues Hamel identifies:
- Policies and processes sapping individual initiative
- Sign-offs slowing decision making
- Boundaries creating silos, matrix structures blurring accountability
- Time and energy consumed by unhelpful reporting and pointless meetings
In my experience, the single most effective way of tackling these challenges is to involve employees in simplifying the work. This is what we do when we run employee surveys. We provide a critical feedback loop and involve people in the solutions. Key topics we explore are things like: Does everyone have a clear line of sight to the customer? What’s stopping more effective cooperation? When people believe something can be done better and differently, do they speak up about it? Are people able to sustain the level of personal energy they need in order to have an impact?
These are some important things to watch out for when simplifying work:
- Managers need to know that one of their key tasks is to get stuff out of the way, so their teams can work effectively
- Financial and operational information should be transparent and widely shared
- Managers have a role in helping their teams understand how the business works and their contribution
- Feedback is critical and this means listening to employees and encouraging dialogue
- You need to reward people who do a good job of simplifying work and share their success stories widely
Hamel believes we need “a revolution of the mind” in order to go to war with bureaucracy. And in this there is also a critical role for people analytics. This is because, as new ways of working are tested and piloted, you need good people analytics to understand the impact of such “hacks” on engagement, productivity and other outcomes in order to build the business case and to direct the next iteration of changes.
It really bugs me when unnecessary things get in the way of my work, so this is one mission I am proud to play a part in.
- Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify (2013)
- Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, The $3 Trillion Prize for Busting Bureaucracy (and how to claim it) (2016)
Tags: #HighPerformance #OrganizationalEffectiveness #Bureaucracy
This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 25, 2016