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We Need More Forms, Hoops & Procedures; How to Kill Your Business the Bittersweet Way

A simple theory of input-output in economics states that as more resources are added (the input) such as staff, raw material, time and technology, then productivity (the output) will increase as well.
There does come a tipping point when the production curve makes a downward dash. As input is increased beyond the tipping point, it will begin have an adverse effect on productivity, causing production to decrease quantitatively and qualitatively.
If 5 workers are assigned to lay shingles on a roof of a single-family home, they will get the job done much quicker than with 2 workers. If 20 workers were assigned to the same project, productivity would decrease as communication becomes more complex, task assignment is unaccounted for, worker mobility is limited, etc.
The same holds true in any other system and context.

Then why do so many companies go form and procedure crazy, creating unnecessary hoops for their employees to jump through in order to get the job done? And in many cases, the assignment to complete is a simple task. Without realizing, the decision-makers set up systems that are actually cutting into their bottom line and the overall success of the company. And the work becomes more and more about abiding by the rules, following procedures and submitting forms.
Yes, it’s important to have rules and follow protocol. But, there is something wrong when the work itself is following rules and protocol.
I’ll leave you with this, a conversation from the famous 1999 movie Office Space:

Dom Portwood: Hi, Peter. What’s happening? We need to talk about your TPS reports.
Peter Gibbons: Yeah. The coversheet. I know, I know. Uh, Bill talked to me about it.
Dom Portwood: Yeah. Did you get that memo?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah. I got the memo. And I understand the policy. And the problem is just that I forgot the one time. And I’ve already taken care of it so it’s not even really a problem anymore.
Dom Portwood: Ah! Yeah. It’s just we’re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great. All right!

Enough with the form and procedure politics. Just get things done!

Published - July 1, 2010

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