Rip Off the Red Tape Band-Aid

Red Tape,” according to the ubiquitous Wikipedia, is “an idiom that refers to excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making.”  What amazes me is that many companies forget who put on the red tape in the first place.  “We can’t do that, it doesn’t follow our protocols!” “We have to do it this way per our procedures,” or “This is what our process requires us to do.” 

When asked if these protocols/procedures/processes are required by some external regulatory body, most of the time the answer is no.  The company themselves wrote the protocol, procedure, or process; there is no external governing body which holds them to maintaining a legacy practice ad infinitum (or who even cares in the first place!).  Yes, sometimes companies are ISO, SQF, under FDA or FDIC regulations, or certified by some other body – but guess what?  Even those certification bodies mainly care that the company does what it claims to do.  They hold you to your own standards. 

Effectively, the company itself decides how much red tape to put on any given process or procedure.

So why don’t companies just CHANGE their outdated, ineffective, excessively complicated, disorganized, ambiguous (etc.) “red tape” methods of doing things? 

One reason is that they are stuck in a “fixed mindset,” where they cannot even conceive of making changes.  Change is never easy; we human beings tend to fear the unknown.  Many of us have heard the proverb that it is better to choose the familiar but unpleasant situation rather than the unfamiliar one because that may turn out worse.  But guess what… it also may turn out better, and there’s only one way to find out.

One very exciting company that AJC works with has really embraced the “growth mindset” as described in the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.  This company is ready to embrace change; they recognize that putting processes in place and writing out protocols and procedures does not bind them forever; it just binds them until they recognize a better way of doing things, then they make (and effect) improvements!  A few months ago, we conducted an internal audit of their laboratory.  The laboratory does not use large amounts of hazardous chemicals, but they do use small amounts occasionally, and they have an eyewash station in the lab.  Their safety shower, however, is in a different room and there is a door between the lab and the shower which is typically shut while lab personnel is working.  I pointed this out as a potential safety issue to the manager. 

Within minutes the manager had created a sign and hung it on the door stating that the door was never to be closed when a worker was in the lab alone.  Additionally, she verbally informed all the lab staff of this new rule right away.  By the next week when I arrived, the sign had been printed and laminated on both sides of the door, and all the surrounding personnel in every department had also been trained on the rule.

Needless to say, I was super impressed!  Not only did this company push back on their “protocol” of how they typically operate in the lab with the door closed, but they had made the change within minutes and formalized it within a week.  Everyone recognized that a change was needed, and embraced it without reservation.  This is just one example of the many improvements being made at this company where almost everyone has a growth mindset.

Since the only constant is change itself, we may as well train our mindsets toward growth and Rip Off the Red Tape Band-Aid! 

What will it take your company to do this?