Home » Risk Management » Sometimes Bureaucracy And Noise Can Be A Good Thing

Sometimes Bureaucracy And Noise Can Be A Good Thing‘In hindsight, by delaying and prolonging the foreclosure process, that gave the market time to stabilize and get back on its feet,’  [which] warned a year ago that huge number of foreclosed homes were going to hit the market. ‘Maybe bureaucracy is actually helping, in this case, to diffuse the impact of the foreclosures.  Talk about unintended consequences.’   The Foreclosure Wave That Wasn’t. Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec 10,2012.

One of my best bosses was one of the most ineffective bosses I had.  He was good because he didn’t get in our way.  He really didn’t do anything that made a difference though he was often leading new initiatives.  With each new initiative (e.g., let’s document our whole process!) we would understandingly go along and do the work and give him results, while madly working on the big projects we had.

In one case, on a very hard fought but successful project where we delivered on time with good quality, someone asked my boss how he did it.  His said that he had assigned extra people to the project at the right time.  The fact that he assigned extra people to every project we had, and every project we had until then always came in months late, didn’t affect him one bit.  I was more than happy to highlight how the extra people did help, but the fact we were ready to use these extra people and the fact that one out of the three managers he “threw into” the project I had to throw out, as being in the way, I didn’t bring up.

More on knowing where staff is needed: One Great Way of Using Your Staff Hours

Two lessons are highlighted here.  The first is we often make claims and take action based solely upon our intuition, which is too often wrong.   The second is that sometimes these “noise” actions are useful.  They don’t cost too much to do and don’t have much impact but they keep the powers-that-be busy thinking they are doing something useful — while we get the job done.

See also: Are We Managing Or Are We Theorizing?

How do you handle the “noise” activities your company throws at your project?

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One thought on “Sometimes Bureaucracy And Noise Can Be A Good Thing

  1. Comments from around the web:

    Mike Murphy
    Apr 2, 2013

    Good middle management can actually “protect” a team from bureaucracy – i.e. can minimize its impact on their daily work.

    Bruce Benson
    2:44 PM

    This article was humorous because the inefficient enforcement bureaucracy slowed down enforcement (consequences) enough that people could recover (the desirable outcome) before it got to them. This kind of approach can be a creatively incompetent way to carry out bad management directives … hence negating them while still implementing them. Of course, no one would ever need such a technique ….

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