How to Overcome the Bureaucracy to Make Big Changes

Every large organization needs some level of bureaucracy. But as most managers know all-too-well, bureaucracy–that agent of order–can become an enemy of change. How can you circumvent bureaucratic sludge to effect necessary change, while also staying within the rules? Here are four strategies.

  1. Obtain C-Suite Buy-In

Most corporate bureaucracies will step aside upon C-suite intervention. But a mere nod of approval isn’t always enough. Your task is to make the higher-ups become partners in your idea, through good old fashioned lobbying. Present your plan in a thorough, professional way, and you just might gain an ally in your quest. If a C-suiter applies firm, consistent pressure, the chances of your plan becoming reality just skyrocketed.

  1. Understand the Rules Before You Go Around Them

If you suspect that your idea will come up against a bureaucratic obstacle, then learn everything you can about that obstacle. Do your homework, and discover all you can about the regulation that stands in your way–particularly why it was put there in the first place. Armed with this knowledge, you have a better chance of finding the loophole, or devising a plan that doesn’t break the rules.

  1. Pick Your Battles

How necessary is the change you want to make? Does the bureaucratic hindrance affect just you, your team or the entire organization? Are you known as someone who continually complains about the rules? The point is that there are times when you should fight, and times when you must accept what is. And if you’re going to fight, try not to go it alone. An organization is unlikely to change because of the complaints of one employee. But if an entire division or sector objects? That’s something entirely different.

  1. Go Outside for Help

Bureaucracies often take on a life of their own, which leads to the dreaded response of “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” In such situations, there may not be many internal allies who will support your cause. So why not go outside the organization? If you have the ability, consider bringing in a consultant, someone who’s trained to spot inefficiencies in a corporate hierarchy.

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