Too many rules are killing our productivity

In recent years there has been a growing level of bureaucracy in businesses and corporations and it is having an impact on our ability to be productive. Businesses need to strike the right balance between their rules and procedures and compliance policies to allow themselves to remain flexible and agile. In some companies, there are simply so many processes and procedures to follow, from meetings, forms to complete, boxes to tick, emails, micromanagement and other time-wasting, overly complicated procedures; any productivity simply becomes no more than a side effect of the processes themselves. 

Of course, all businesses need to have rules and policies in place. Too few, and you can quickly descend into anarchy. Too many, and your productivity, creativity and ability to respond quickly is hindered. 

Over dependence on rules and regulations impede productivity in these ways; 

  1. Reduces engagement – With too much red tape and hoops to jump through, people quickly become demotivated and disengaged because they simply don’t; enjoy the work they are doing. Work becomes monotonous, rigid and bureaucratic with too many unnecessary rules to follow – none of which are fun and enjoyable. In order to keep people engaged in their work we need them to keep sight of the big picture, the greater meaning of the work they are doing, but too much compliance does the exact opposite, keeping people focussed on the paperwork and ticking all the boxes so they don’t go off the rails and fail to comply. 
  2. Stifles creativity – when you force people to work within limitations of rules and regulations, processes and procedures, it is not exactly conducive to creative thinking outside the box. If anything, people may feel discouraged from being too creative as their ideas and new ways of doing things fall outside of the rules and regulations. When there are too many procedures to follow, as new people join with potential for fresh ideas and new ways of doing things, instead of allowing them to shake things up, they find they quickly need to fall in line with the existing system and there leaves no room for growth. Creativity and innovation then suffers, which ironically is probably needed a lot more than the compliance in place. 
  3. There is no capacity for failures or mistakes – Businesses who allow for a culture where they learn by trial and error and where mistakes are accepted as positive opportunities for growth, do better than those who are too rigid and see mistakes and failures as negatives. When there are too many rules and procedures, it creates an environment where there is a right way to do something, and a wrong way to do something.

    When people don’t follow protocol, in the worst instance they are hunted down and penalised and in the best-case scenario, they feel bad for making the mistake and are discouraged from making the same mistake twice. This does not encourage a culture of trial and error and makes it very difficult to try new things.

    There can be too many unnecessary rules in place that make it impossible to employ a trial and error, experimental approach to things.  If we want to stay agile, we need to encourage our employees to think innovatively, to try new things and to allow the business to grow, not foster a ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ approach to everything.

    So often in businesses, as new people with new ideas and experience join, instead of them being able to share their ideas with their team, they are told how to do things and there is very little encouragement to see if they have a better idea. This is a shame, as it is often new people who can come in and see things from a fresh perspective, who are not too far down the rabbit hole already and have some great insight into how things can be done differently. This should be encouraged, not stifled.
  4. Minimises team morale and rapport – When our interactions with team mates becomes about ticking boxes, and our interactions are funnelled into rigid procedures; meetings, emails, forms. We become less productive without a team and feel more like we are operating in isolation, rather than as a team of creative individuals with thoughts and ideas to share. 

    Our interactions need to have a degree of unstructured rapport-building time in our day to day interactions in order to feel connected with one another. Sadly, this is happening less and less with the building level of compliance in place, dominating our interactions.  

Does your company have too many rules and regulations in place? How has it affected you? I’d love to hear from you. If your leadership team could do with my help get in touch today

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