[December 12, 2014] Christopher is a team leader with a well-known oil extraction firm in downtown Houston. But he had a problem retarding his ability to produce high quality designs because his company would not allow him the required computer software – he succeeded anyway. Breaking stupid rules is sometimes necessary to get things done.
The firm had a policy that all design software costing over $500 be evaluated by a management group at the corporate office; they rejected his request. Spending $5,000 of his own money on the proprietary software, Christopher was able to produce the designs, saving the company $4 million in less than two years.
The privilege of senior leadership comes with an unwritten responsibility to cut through rules that act as barriers to mission accomplishment. I would argue that the reason we have leaders with relevant experience is that they can do exactly that … legally of course, when the rules tell us otherwise. Others call this cutting the red tape.
If we look into the depths of any successful organization we will find more Christophers who are working hard to overcoming the rules, regulations, and policies that unintentionally hinder the mission and make it difficult to simply accomplish required tasks. This is not a new concept. A book by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein1 focuses on this very idea. They tell us that this off-loading of corporate costs onto employees is common and therefore are a hidden element of productivity. Most important, they write that it is the leaders, those with accountability and who have authority, can really make a difference.
“Change is still made by people with some sort of authority. It’s driven by managers who have a platform to advocate for a new direction and the ability to hire, promote, and reward those who embrace it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric
Leaders need to acknowledge that only those with the power to drive change are those that can hire, promote, and reward those who follow their lead in overcoming mission barriers – like stupid rules. Senior leaders who do this will be successful. Those who don’t will put their organizations at risk to a future that is hobbled with unnecessary bureaucracy.
Christopher was eventually reimbursed his money but later moved on to create his own firm. Now in Dallas, Texas he is even more successful and is fulfilling the American dream.
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 Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein, 2010.