Bureaucracy and Taping Down Our Common Sense

Bureaucracy and Taping Down Our Common Sense

In 2008 the island of Haiti was devastated by storms. The death toll was staggering – and the human suffering that followed even more so. As various agencies around the world joined to provide aid and comfort to this poor nation so too did the bureaucratic red tape associated with humanitarian efforts. Though relief did come – in time – literally mountains of food were left to rot on loading docks, hamstrung by policies too archaic or too limited to provide help in time. A failure of process compromised people that were literally dying.


In September of 2013 the United States Air Force completed construction on four C-27J aircraft. Because of the process and work orders that were in place these planes were completed even though they were virtually obsolete – at a cost of some $35 billion. Their destination – the airport “graveyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It was deemed less expensive to simply finish them than go through the cost and time to stop construction.


Our nation’s veterans are dealing with disability claims that are so backlogged that many will die before receiving the aid they deserve.  As of 2014 the average wait time on a V.A. claim – 279 days. The good news – now it’s down to 123 days. At its zenith it was almost ONE Year.


None of the above is an indictment of foreign aid policies, our military, or our government.  But it is a startling reminder that even the best intentioned can be waylaid by bureaucracy – and that becomes even more egregious in the private sector – and in the business world.


Stripping needless process steps away is never as easy as saying, “Let’s remove the red tape.” Systems and protocol are built to simplify and ensure consistency – without them we have chaos.


But balancing that with common sense is sometimes overlooked. In business we literally create mindless minions who fall back on what policy says rather than think independently – or do what’s right when circumstances demand.


When the policy manual becomes the sole source of what we do then we’ve effectively removed human judgment – a recipe for disaster – and that extends to all sectors.


The challenge we all face in our careers is in constantly monitoring – and reassessing current policies and procedures to make sure we’re not simply complying – but doing THE RIGHT THING.


Speaks easy – plays hard. Conformists need not apply for that level of thinking or action.


The next time you feel the not so subtle adhesive effects of your company’s red tape – something to think about.


Speak up – push back – ask WHY?


The answers may surprise you – and don’t be too surprised if no one really knows.


I can remember a response from early in my career that still haunts…”That’s just how we do things around here.”


Red tape doesn’t simply evaporate – it takes strong-minded individuals who are courageous enough to challenge the status quo – while the rest of us simply complain – and yes, grow more disengaged.


There is so much more that could be said when it comes to navigating the labyrinth of bureaucracy – but I have to run over to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my license renewed.


I’ve only packed enough for 2 meals – there is work to be done.


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