Bureaucracy bogs down large corporations and governments, frustrates customers and destroys employee morale. It’s no wonder that small businesses often thrive as customers and workers choose to do business with companies that are more accessible. It might be a bit ironic, then, that most small business owners hope to someday grow huge, serving a much larger customer base and employing multiple teams.
As a business grows, it can be difficult to retain the very environment that made customers and workers so happy when it was a small startup. It’s important that companies find ways to keep that small business feel, even when teams are massive and customer demand is at an all-time high.
Here are a few tips to help reduce bureaucracy in your organization, even as you become larger.
Minimize Bureaucracy by Avoiding Segmentation
One major difference between small business teams and those at large corporations is the diversity of the work they do each day. In corporations, employees are grouped into work areas where they focus solely on their own small piece of a much larger puzzle. As a result, a business often operates in silos, with each group barely aware of what any of the other teams are doing.
As much as possible, businesses should strive to continue to encourage employees to work across different areas of expertise. Employees should work on multiple tasks within the organization. This will not only keep them aware of what else is going on with the business, but it will also keep them from getting burned out by working on one thing day in and day out.
Reduce Approval Levels to Minimize Bureaucracy
When one decision must pass through seven managers for approval, bureaucracy takes hold and customer service suffers. Too many processes can slow a business to the point that customers and vendors begin to notice, leading to complaints and cancellations. One bad link in the chain of command can cause serious errors that cost your business money.
Instead of bogging processes down with multiple approvals, put one reliable person in charge of approving each item. Even better, hire workers who can be trusted to sign off on most of the daily decisions they’ll be tasked with making.
If you must have supervisor approval on tasks, try to automate the process so that the manager is alerted when an approval request comes through. If that manager doesn’t push the approval through within a set timeframe, make sure your system is set up to escalate the approval to someone higher up who can approve it instead.
Limit Bureaucracy by Using Collaboration Tools
Communication is an important part of eliminating bureaucracy. When employees actually speak to each other on a regular basis, misunderstandings are avoided and issues are quickly resolved. One way to use technology to keep channels of communication open is through the use of collaboration tools.
Many of these tools are now set up with the same look and feel as social media, giving employees a familiarity as they update team members on project progress, share documents or just vote on the office holiday party location.
Client portals are another way to keep customers, clients and vendors informed. Businesses can grant access to information stored within the portal, allowing third parties to log in and check the status of projects, communicate with team members, create invoices and check the status of invoices, and more.
Reduce Formal Staff Meetings
Do you have standing meetings that move forward whether employees have anything to say or not? If so, cancel those meetings and make an effort to only meet when you have a reason. Employees regularly express frustration with unnecessary meetings, so it’s important to find another way whenever possible.
When there is an issue to be discussed, first ask yourself if there’s a more productive way to get the message across than a team meeting. You may be able to use your online collaboration tool to communicate the message. A quick email or conference call could accomplish the goal as well. With more employees than ever working in the field, it’s important that businesses minimize wasted time.
Bureaucracy bogs a company down, wasting time and disrupting productivity. As businesses grow, it’s important to make a concerted effort to keep the small-business culture instead of giving into the temptation to set firm policies and create obstacles for workers.