In the management of any small business, the business owner must deal with bureaucracies. It might be your own. It might be someone else’s. But you must learn to manage that person whose every incentive is the polar opposite of your incentive. Your Small Business Owner’s Doppelganger is…the Bureaucrat.
Rule Number One: Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no.
Morton Blackwell, founder of The Leadership Institute, wrote The Laws of the Public Policy Process that has 45 such pithy points. They are helpful to anyone dealing with the servants grinding out the sausage of law, policy, rule and reg. Governments and most any organization have what you would call “multiple points of accountability.”
This is where any stakeholder or key influencer or television camera can veto an action. The Bureaucrat learns very quickly that vetoes will come fast and from all directions with lethal effect onto any movement by said Bureaucrat. There is no penalty for no decision. It is safer for a simple preemptive “No.” Remember our Bureaucrat is in a matrix (an organizational structure; not the movie — although it may seem that way). He can get fired by a number of bosses. Or worse: to work past 5pm or on Saturday. A fate worse than death.
There is one method of confronting this breed in the public or private sector: Don’t.
Instead try these options, three Bureaucrat workarounds:
1) Use a third party. Watch how our Congress does it: Closing military bases a hot potato(e)? Form a commission. Afraid of controversial social issues? Let the Supremes decide. The good manager finds that third party. Finds that friend. There is always someone, somewhere who will sign off or lift off your project — for a price. (Call me for rates.)
2) There are some Bureaucrats who can be inside champions for your project. Here’s how you can identify this rare subset: Ask them if they like the child’s game of ‘Whack-a-Mole.’ If the Bureaucrat brightens up, leans forward and smiles, start enlisting. If the weather turns cloudy, walk away. Finding that particular Bureaucrat is tricky. Think CIA and spy recruiting.
3) Or my favorite — simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg forgiveness. At 4:55pm. Friday’s are best.
It is the smart Small Business Owner who uses the One Rule, Three Options Matrix for managing Bureaucrats.