Blow Up Bureaucracy (The Welch Way)

Tolerate Bureaucracy
Blow Up Bureaucracy

Welch has always hated bureaucracy. To him, bureaucracy is the enemy. Bureaucracy means waste, slow decision making, unnecessary approvals, and all the other things that kill a company's competitive spirit. He spent many years battling bureaucracy, trying to rid GE of anything that would make it less competitive.

Welch felt that ridding the company of bureaucracy was everyone's job. He urged all of his employees to "fight it, kick it." That's why "disdaining bureaucracy" became such an important part of GE's shared values (the list of behaviors that were expected of all GE employees).

When a young college student asked Welch what he should do when he encounters bureaucracy in a large corporation, the GE chairman advised him to "get a hand grenade...and blow it up" (he meant that figuratively, of course). He felt that it is everyone's job to at least try to rid the organization of wasteful bureaucracy.

But isn't that easier said than done? Yes, even organizations that do a good job of eliminating this cancerous element can't kill it permanently.

That's why Welch called bureaucracy "the Dracula of institutional behavior," because it had a way of rising from the dead every few years.

Anything that you can do to simplify, remove complexity and formality, and make the oerganization more responsive and agile, will reduce bureaucracy:

Drop unnecessary work:
Most organizations have far too many rules, approvals, and forms. Work with colleagues to figure out which of these old ways of doing things can be either eliminated or improved.

Work with colleagues to streamline decision making:
If it takes a company a week to make a decision, the process needs to be simplified.

If no one can remember why your company does something a certain way, chances are that it is more complicated than it needs to be.

Make your workplace more informal:
Send handwritten notes instead of memos (Jack loves handwritten notes, and it is "Jack," not "Mr. Welch"), keep meetings conversational (rather than formal and rigid), and encourage dialogue up and down the corporate ladder.

The way to harness the power of these people is not to protect them... but to turn them loose, and get the management layers off their backs, the bureaucratic shackles off their feet and the functional barriers out of their way.

From: Jeffrey A. Krames. The Welch Way: 24 lessons from the world's greatest CEO. New York, McGraw-Hill, 2004.

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