In many organizations, bureaucracy consists of people, policies, and procedures that focus organizational resources on reaching accepted objectives. Bureaucracy can also be an unnecessary obstacle, but that's a topic for another time. For now, let's focus on how to operate within bureaucracy to get our work done with minimal frustration and wasted effort.
One approach might be what I call Just-In-Time Hoop-Jumping, which means deferring preparations for jumping through a given hoop until the time is right.
For example, if you're preparing a project plan for a sequence of reviews by sponsors, managers, and governance boards, you know that some of these folks review only parts of the plan. Others review the entire plan piecewise in a set of mini-reviews. Some review items only after others have reviewed them, and so on.
The straightforward approach to final approval involves developing the entire plan and submitting it to reviewers, in turn, making adjustments after each review. But Just-in-Time Hoop-Jumping often produces better results, because you develop in detail only enough of the work to meet the requirements of the next reviewer along the path to final approval.
Of course, a clear view of that entire path is necessary — including answers to any questions that any reviewer might ask. But it isn't necessary to have those answers in final form until you reach the point where they might be asked.
Here are three guidelines for implementing Just-In-Time Hoop-Jumping.
- Synchronize your work to your audiences
- On the path to final approval, you'll probably face a sequence of different audiences. Be certain that your work meets the needs of each audience, but complete treatment of each part of the work is necessary only for the part to be reviewed by that audience. Sketchy versions of portions to be reviewed by later audiences might be adequate for now.
- Break your task into layers
- As you progress, How can you operate within bureaucracy
to get your work done with minimal
frustration and wasted effort?expectations for completeness and sophistication of the work increase. Meet those expectations. But going beyond what's necessary at any one stage exposes you to the risk that the above-and-beyond part might need rework if elements it depends on undergo change. Develop the effort in detail no more than is required for a particular stage of the review process.
- Use modularity to manage the risk of rework
- Understanding the standards to be applied at any stage of the process is a given. But you can limit the impact of failure to satisfy a reviewer by limiting the interactions between modules of the work. By making the modules of your proposal independent, you can reduce the work required to bring the entire work into compliance when one module changes.
Love the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbreneiYenDSFIEpqiZcsner@ChacDRHBGgHcrlcIkqwxoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Take Regular Temperature Readings
- Team interactions are unimaginably complex. To avoid misunderstandings, offenses, omissions, and mistaken
suppositions, teams need open communications. But no one has a full picture of everything that's happening.
The Temperature Reading is a tool for surfacing hidden and invisible information, puzzles, appreciations,
frustrations, and feelings.
- Heavy Burdens: Should, Always, Must, and Never
- As a leader you carry a heavy burden. You're accountable for everything from employee development to
meeting organizational objectives, and many of these responsibilities conflict. Life is tough enough,
but most of us pile on a load of over-generalized rules of work life — a load too heavy for anyone
- Changing the Subject: II
- Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or
assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
- Action Item Avoidance
- In some teams, members feel so overloaded that they try to avoid any additional tasks. Here are some
of the most popular patterns of action item avoidance.
- Why We Don't Care Anymore
- As a consultant and coach I hear about what people hate about their jobs. Here's some of it. It might
help you appreciate your job.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
- And on December 6: Reframing Revision Resentment: I
- From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden. Available here and by RSS on December 6.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenLyicVqWEQPHruzsFner@ChacofnqDhuinIOSatJsoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.