Articles

Organizational Decline Through Over-Control

August 28, 2017 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Organizations continue to experience excessive red tape despite business thought leaders suggesting that bureaucracy damages business growth and profits. The symptoms of bureaucracy include too many management layers, greater growth in head office employees than frontline employees, more and more processes removing the autonomy of employees, increasing reporting demands and excessive time spent in meetings. When speaking to business leaders the issue of too much red tape is a regular refrain, and yet little has changed for most large organizations.

Legitimate Leadership works with leaders to develop a working environment where leaders implement the behaviours that would allow their employees to contribute willingly. Rather than employees reluctantly accepting the instructions and commands of managers, employees will want to work for a leader that acts in their best interest, offers them opportunities to grow and enables them to deliver their best performances.

What does this mean practically? How can business leaders reduce red tape and allow their employees to contribute fully?

  1. Reduce management layers: Calculate the average manager to employee ratio in your organization and develop ways to increase the ratio. Trends indicate that a manager assisted by technology should be managing approximately 20 employees. Remove time-wasting activities so that managers can cope with a larger group of employees. Automate routine tasks such as recording time-and-attendance and leave. Reduce the time spent on internal rules and regulations which add little value. Remove unnecessary reporting.

FAIL: Team leaders are required, weekly, to type and send a report to a supervisor, who then consolidates 2 or 3 of these reports and sends it to a manager, who then consolidates and sends it to a general manager and further up the line. At the same time team leaders are sending hourly and daily statistics by WhatsApp to the whole line of command. Meanwhile these team leaders have spent little if any time coaching and engaging with their employees. The numbers are monitored constantly, yet demotivated employees are unlikely to deliver the required results.

WIN: A well-structured automated system provides statistics to managers on demand. Team leaders spend 80% of their time coaching employees, engaging with employees face-to-face and enabling employees to deliver to their best potential. Highly motivated employees deliver excellent results.

  1. Instead of appointing more administrative employees, allow leaders to own the processes that affect their direct reports: Leaders should recruit and appoint their direct reports, guided by company policies and recruitment systems. Leaders should drive high performance through meaningful monthly performance conversations rather than tedious tick-box performance appraisal systems. Leaders should recognize and reward their direct reports and where necessary address and manage poor performance. Leaders should manage their departmental expense budgets within company parameters and policies.

FAIL: HR sets up and monitors adherence to a sophisticated online performance appraisal system. Managers are required to complete performance appraisals within a given time and strictly according to the parameters of the system. Managers and employees meet to complete the online form, with little time given to meaningful conversation. The employee receives bland feedback and the leader ticks all the boxes on time.

WIN: Leaders meet one-on-one with each employee for one hour once per month. The conversation is guided by the employee’s agenda. The conversation includes a discussion of mutual expectations, progress to previous objectives and agreement of new objectives. Using a coaching approach the leader assists the employee to identify opportunities for improvement and personal potential that could be further exploited. The leader focuses on the personal development of the employee and ensuring the employee is fully enabled to deliver optimally. A highly engaged employee continues to contribute with absolute clarity about what is required.

  1. Remove dis-empowering activities: Shorten decision making time by allowing employees to make decisions within set parameters and according to company policy – eg when they take leave. Minimize the levels of approvals required for day to day operational decisions. Introduce remuneration systems which allow managers to determine direct reports’ remuneration levels and increases. Introduce self-managing teams that set and own their targets and manage their own performances.

FAIL: Bureaucracy leads to learned helplessness. Every request is answered with: “I can’t because the procedure has to be followed”. A leader can’t fill a vacant position before completing a recruitment form, sending it to HR, who vets it and sends if for approval to a higher level and/or the finance division. HR now follows a stringent recruitment process while the business team is unable to function at optimal level. The recruitment goes back and forth between the line leader and HR over days and weeks. Noone accepts accountability for the slow progress as blame shifts back and forth.

WIN: A manager submits a request for a replacement within the policy and in accordance with budget. Approval is obtained within agreed service level timings from the relevant authority. The manager now manages the recruitment process through the recruitment system, with pre-approved recruitment agencies. The selection and interviewing process is the domain of the manager, supported by HR expertise (e.g. providing suitable assessments). The manager understands the urgency of the placement as the team operates without a team member. Full accountability remains with the manager.

  1. Encourage innovation and proactive contribution: Provide recognition for new actions that positively impact the organization and its customers. Reward employees, front-line as well as administrative, for initiatives that improve client satisfaction and retention. Encourage employees to go above and beyond and do not punish an employee for “over stepping a boundary” when that action satisfied a client or benefitted the organization.

FAIL: A client arrives at reception for an appointment with the company’s training department. Reception has no knowledge of the appointment and does not know who in training to contact. The client cannot reach the trainer or account executive on their phones. The client phones the sales executive who is on leave, to try to get assistance. Finally, the trainer is reached and advises that the training was not confirmed by an internal party and therefore cannot take place. It requires intervention by the MD to have the trainer instructed to go ahead with the training of the client.

WIN: A client has an appointment with an executive at your company, which is based close to a train station. The client requests to be fetched from the station. The executive requests the company driver to collect the client. On the way from the station to the office the driver tells the client how he was assisted by the company to learn to drive while he was a security guard. He explains that the company then gave him a position as a driver, allowing him to progress his career, and continues to sponsor his education. Upon arrival, the client announces how impressed he is by the employee, the company and its management. Business is successfully concluded.

“The single biggest reason companies fail is they over invest in what is, as opposed to what might be.” – Gary Hamel

Wendy Lambourne
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