Six Rules

By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

September 28, 2011

Efforts at federal improvement generally involve a downside for someone. In the case of performance measurement and accountability, that downside requires federal managers to coordinate and complete a lot of paperwork.

John Kamensky of the IBM Center for the Business of Government recently highlighted a Harvard Business Review article by Yves Morieux titled "Smart Rules: Six Ways to Get People to Solve Problems Without You." While the article focuses on private sector companies, many of the challenges that managers in those organizations face will sound familiar to federal leaders. For example, companies on average set for themselves six times as many performance requirements as they did in 1955.

The Boston Consulting Group, Morieux's employer, surveyed more than 100 large American and European companies and found that during the past 15 years, procedures, the vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies and decision approvals those firms required increased anywhere from 50 percent to 350 percent. As measured by the survey's index of complicatedness, during the past 50 years, these firms became 6.7 percent more complicated each year, on average. Sound familiar?

According to Morieux, in the most complicated organizations, managers spend 40 percent of their time writing reports and 30 percent to 60 percent of it in coordination meetings. "This complicatedness exacts a heavy price . . . [it] doesn't leave much time for them to work with their teams." Employees in these companies were three times as likely to be disengaged as employees in the other firms surveyed.

Morieux has identified the six rules that successful organizations follow and, as Kamensky points out, some may sound familiar to those who were around during the days of the Clinton-Gore Reinventing Government campaign.

These rules, Morieux says, allow managers to deal with complexity by creating a context where optimal behaviors occur naturally, rather than having to prescribe the specific behaviors.


By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

September 28, 2011

http://www.govexec.com/excellence/management-matters/2011/09/six-rules/35015/