An Idea for Process Teams

My previous post on Process Hell generated some thoughts from my friend Ryan at his blog in a posting called Policy, Subjectivity and Inteligence. It seems last year he had some similar thoughts in another post titled The “What isn’t easily measurable, doesn’t exist” Rule. I think he was spot on with why many costs are ignored by policy makers:

It is easy for them [policy makers] to ignore the side effects, such as wasted bureaucratic efforts, delays to real progress, and other general dysfunctions. The side effects are outside of their purview, and highly difficult to measure. These two factors lead to application of the “What isn’t easily measurable, doesn’t exist” rule.

I did some brainstorming about what kinds of changes an upper manager could make to the organization that would provide some relief to the situation without going through the tedious and expensive task of identifying costs that generally go unaccounted for. I aimed for something simple enough that a brave manager can try it out with little effort but could really distinguish his company from most others (and hopefully in a positive way).

The idea is that the policy management team is made somewhat subservient to the teams affected by policy. There is a policy committee that is comprised of the policy team and representatives from various affected areas. The representatives each have one vote on policy decisions, and the policy team members have no vote but exist to facilitate creation, management, and follow-through of the resulting policies. In communicating to the policy committee, management is able to specify what policies must exist but cannot specify any content for those policies. Finally, any team that finds a particular policy too much of a burden may release their own version to address the issue. If the team version cannot be reconciled with the official version within four weeks (times may vary by organization) then that team is no longer bound by the official policy and instead uses their version.

How did I arrive at this? I focused first and foremost on keeping power in the hands of the affected teams. If a company cannot measure the pain induced by policies upon its employees, then simply giving those employees power to correct the issue—even at the cost of potentially losing conformity—seems like sufficient counterbalance to me. People do not want to stand out and be different. They do not want to be tasked with managing their own version of a policy. They will conform with the official version until it becomes cost prohibitive to do so, and they will likely put in healthy efforts at having the existing policy updated first. Only when they feel their attempts at compromise are insufficiently met will they want to branch their policy.

Would this approach work? I recognize that it might bring problems of its own. A company may end up with a situation where every department ends up with its own version of almost every policy. But then again, is that really a bad thing? I do not think so.

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One Response to “An Idea for Process Teams”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Hmm. Blogger doesn’t do trackbacks?

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