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Cutting bureaucracy – 5 ways to sharpen your scissors

I’ve been on the case for cutting bureaucracy before in relation to my profession, customer success. Beyond that, there are so many good reasons for doing it. It’s the bane of modern life and often the preserve of large, monolithic organisations. But no one is immune and especially in an already chaotic and complex world, we MUST make a conscious decision to cut it at every turn. Here are some ways.

1. Way of the minimalist – remove until it breaks
I’ve already written about the way of the minimalist for creative productivity. Here too it can go far beyond the pursuit of creativity. Every time you are designing or building something that governs how you or others should work (process, approach, framework, etc.), think first about whether it’s even needed. If yes, take a stab at a first draft and then with close scrutiny, think about every step and whether it’s really needed – if not remove it. Remove as much as you can, until it breaks what you came up with.

2. Bureaucracy busters
There is a risk of creating more bureaucracy but if you keep a small team that are empowered to assess, audit and advise/cut, this could work. Punish unnecessary complexity, reward simplicity and eloquent action. I could have called the team the bureaucracy police but that is a stretch – they should not have that kind of power and its more about carrot than stick.

3. Empower employees and let them decide
Keep complexity out of the system (processes) and with people who can mostly figure things out for themselves. At least trust them to.  Processes should be minimal (see first point) when designing anything. 

4. Favour action and decision making
Help the company become action or decision driven. Movement is the key. Inaction will eventually lead to procrastination and inertia and these bedfellows provide fertile grounds for bureaucracy to flourish. When we are at a loose end, we tend to focus on unnecessary things – when a decision is made and action is needed, we will often go for the line that is shortest.

5. Brutal prioritisation
Ask yourself why you are doing something at every step of the way and how it leads to where you want to go. If it’s not going to help on the journey, it isn’t a priority and you can cut it. Only by being brutal in saying no, will you get to an eventual yes – more on the power of yes and no.

Walking around with a t-shirt might help remind you and everyone else to be on the lookout for this pernicious malady and cut it back at every chance you have so buy one today 😎

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