9 responses to “Weekend Journal: Corporate Policy Wonkiness”

  1. Charles J Gervasil

    What if you spent your own money? Would they have had the same reaction?

    This scenario is the combination of the downside of a) not having ownership in the business and b) the people making the decisions not having ownership either. I can’t tell from the post which one is predominant. I do agree, though, it’s hard when someone says they don’t want a hired gun, they want “team members” who have “buy-in”, but it turns out to be a one-way street: They ask you to operate as if you had ownership but you have no say over the most basic decisions.

    This is an unhealthy relationship.

  2. pramod

    Thought-provoking post and interesting comment as well. One thing that I find interesting is how company culture affects these decisions. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that.

  3. FrauTech

    I’ve definitely seen this kind of reaction. Buy a $500 datalogger for a one time test and it’s fine. But buy a $20 book for an employee to train from and it’s questioned. Almost like anything that could possibly be seen as a perk is looked down on when money will be wasted with abandon elsewhere.

    I disagree though on a big company acting like a small company. We have that in certain departments and it can impede progress. A department of 100 people becomes 500 but still only the one guy who can sign for or approve certain things. Also too many people who think cutting corners, getting things done by favor, not tracking work with any paperwork trail, and tribal knowledge valued over creating written procedures.

  4. AnalogCarnage

    In 8 years I built my company from 1 man to 20 men and $4M+/Yr. I did this after coming from a big international company that was hobbled with policies and internal politics. Being an engineer, I have no time for corporate crap and just want to get on with building crap and solving problems. I swore that I would never have any of that crap in my business. This year I spent nearly $100k on policies and procedures. The exact crap I detest. Yet as explained to me by those I employ who can tolerate this stuff, my business can not operate today without this structure. It’s as if those who write the policies ensure their own future by mandating their own work. Yes, big business should be able to operate like small business but they can’t. When you start dealing with government contracts and big corporations, their policies require you to have compliant policies. The policies are like an ecosystem of their own. They all back up each other. Yet their overall purpose still fails. People still get hurt, project go to crap or run way over budget, design problems occur, all the things these policies are design to prevent.
    Chris…I hear you man..I feel your pain but its just the rules of playing in the big league. I own my business and I can’t avoid it either!

  5. Kate

    I work for a great great small company (150 people). Yes we have policies, but they are all decided by 1 person and there’s no going up the chain. I got food for a meeting with 1 email. Our purchasing guy can order as he needs, no ‘preferred supplier’. Don’t mind me- I’m in honeymoon phase with my new company.

  6. Mike

    I can think of two primary reasons for corporate policy – consistency and control. Both of these are double-edged swords. For example, everyone wants a good design flow, so having a policy on how a design goes from concept to production may be a good thing. Everyone will know what is expected of them during the design process, and the handoff from group to group can be (kind of) standardized. But if you apply your policies too rigidly you can be left with a mess – does a simple $25 product require the full suite of 32 design reviews, checks, reliability studies, etc? The idea of a policy with flexibility seems to be foreign to most companies.

    I think for some companies the control part can easily get out of control. I once worked for a company that wanted employee time tracked down to a tenth of an hour. Everything you did needed to go against an assigned task list. If you were doing something for which there was no appropriate task, you charged to the ‘misc’ category. Within a month or two most people were recording their time so that they didn’t get slammed by their supervisors. A few brave souls tried to ‘do the right thing’, – one person even continued to record his bathroom breaks as ‘misc’ time. The people at the top felt this was great – they knew exactly what their employees were doing! Ignorance is bliss….

  7. Mike

    As far as Dave’s comment about ask forgiveness, I completely understand. Before working for a company I was in the military. It’s a common phrase of “it’s easier to beg for forgiveness, than to ask permission.” Sometimes Policy Wonks don’t always have the best vision in mind, they do it to “keep their tails out of the fire.” Usually when you run into this, it’s because someone somewhere saw something that made them nervous. All you can do at that point is evaluate the lost effect, and see what you can do to recover from the decission. Most people will understand when the “Policy Police” have come and made an overiding decision. For the future, you can attempt to second guess what decisions will be made, but usually you’ll get hit or miss, until you’ve been there long enough for people to trust you’re decisions, and be able to guess what others will say.

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