And the Answer is …

In an interesting conversation with a client last week, he cried, “We have bureaucracy!” Ok, maybe not cried so much as moaned. Loudly.

This is a start-up company with a few hundred employees.

What had happened? Someone did something without regard for the actual impact of his or her action. They did it by the book. Not because they were busy, but because they never asked or thought “does this make sense to do?”

When your employees ask you a question, it’s easiest to say yes or no. To give a rule, to say, “do it this way, not that” or “take this action, don’t take that one.” It’s easier for them (albeit boring and disempowering) and quicker in the moment for you. 

At least it is quicker right up until they run into a situation where the answer yields the wrong result. When they do things that don’t make sense because “he said to…” or “that’s what we’ve always done.” Then we get bureaucracy. And that slows an organization down.

Try giving them an answer that is a continuum. How to do that?  

·       Give them the most common conditions that might exist and an approach to answering each

·       Give them a middle case where the answer might not be obvious, along with questions to ask to help determine the best course

·       Ensure that they understand company priorities, the connections and intent behind each and how their jobs positively and negatively affect each

When you give your employees the tools to make complex decisions on their own, you’ll be helping them to be better employees. Hire people that ask questions that want to know “why.” Then reward them for actions that help the organization stay agile and aligned. 

Karen Walker
— One Team Consulting


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