We all have our own war-stories about red tape and bureaucracy, but if you’re an entrepreneur or run your own business, have you ever stopped to think that you may also be a source? Factors that can contribute to red tape are unnecessarily complicated procedures, unwarranted redundancies, and having too many people in control over too few points of control. Red tape drags on, and it is not limited to the government. Companies have red tape too, which means businesses aren’t immune.
“Red tape” is used to describe bureaucratic policies, procedures and forms that are “excessively complex and time-consuming” in nature.
The term comes from when Henry VIII bombarded the Pope with around eighty petitions to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife (In his lifetime, Henry had six wives, and Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s widow.) Anyway, the court documentation was collected and sealed up in red ribbons, which was the custom at the time for official state documentation.
In time, people started using the term ‘red tape’ to describe slow, unnecessarily complicated, and time-consuming filing, forms, and procedures.
Turning the focus on your own work now, have you ever encountered problem in your work flow due to ‘internal policies’ you follow in running your business? When was the last time you updated your procedures and protocols? Have you reviews your ops manual lately?
If you haven’t, you may be working with outdated information and process that are slowing you down, or worse, impeding your progress. At the speed of innovation and technological developments, information comes in at a staggering rate. The information you based your decisions on in the early days of your business may have set the tone for how you do things, but it’s also your job to revisit, review, and renew — if not replace or reject outright — outmoded, less efficient, or less effective ways of doing things.
Time is money in business. Energy is wealth. Investing in updating the system you use, the procedures and protocols that help you run your business, is simply part of best practice.
The high view
Schedule your assessment as part of workload. You’re the facilitator, and on the agenda: data gathering and brain-picking. Resources: your people, and those who have a stake in the outcome. The targets for analysis: the things which make up your system –your business processes, your policies, and whatever protocols you established.
You need honest input on how to make things better, and at times that means tearing things down to rebuild them in a better way. Front-liners can be especially helpful since they interact directly with the customers, and are in a position to get the best view of the issues that customers complain about. They can filter out the nonsense from the real issues and report back.
Identify weak spots and waste. Check for helpful redundancies (back-up) versus useless redundancies (unnecessary steps). Look for activities that require time, labor or money and yet don’t return anything positive into the system. Look for potential and proven bottlenecks.
When you uncover the issues hiding in plain sight, you are freed to get rid of them. You want to save time, labor and money? Simplify. Streamline procedures and workflow. The intent is to make things run faster and unimpeded by internally generated red tape. Red tape trips people up and slows them down. If it takes the approval of three department heads before you can requisition routine materials, you know there’s definite room for improvement.
Rules and protocols are meant to help instill order and structure— too much order and structure makes for a rigid system, one with no give, which can stifle productivity and strip people of their power to make decisions, and also waste their time in busy-work like filing forms and getting processed.
When you examine your business’ internal workings to cut away the outdated and the unnecessary, you also need to look at structural solutions, because we can’t separate the problem of red tape from the situation that created it — the problem is systemic, and we can’t separate these two. That’s why you may have to remove certain structures entirely and create more simple ones in their place, or be required to overhaul large swaths of the system.
When you take steps to root out the red tape in your own backyard (or home office):
You improve efficiency
You minimize delays
You reduce stress levels and frustration
You empower people, and that also include you.
You clear out busy-work and reduce sources of head-aches
You save money, time, and energy.
Having your own business is a lot of responsibility. Under the title of sole proprietor, boss, or owner, the actual role is really that of manager. Your role is to look ahead and plan the things that need doing. You organize the business’s internal and external projects,. You prioritize the high-value items and distribute the workload if you’re not outsourcing. You delegate.
You’re the remover of obstacles and resource allocator. Burning out red tape also means you just made yourself more effective by creating a better, healthier work environment and tighter, more streamlined business
Make it a point to do regular yearly reviews so you won’t backslide and let red tape bloom again right under your nose. Just like seasonal house cleaning, you’re keeping things fresh, checking to adjust to changing conditions. Make sure you’re keeping current with the needs of your work, and keep the workload lighter by dumping the dead weight that may quietly accumulate over time.
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