Departmental Procedures: Do they destroy efficiency and staff innovation?

Departmental Procedures: Do they destroy efficiency and staff innovation?

When I started my career, I hated following “procedures”. I still cannot stand the “well, this is the way we have always done it in the past” line of thinking. I felt that strictly dictated procedures smothered innovation and opportunities to increase productivity by turning people’s brains off.

Over the last several years, I have changed into the object that I once despised…a “manager”.

I am a little older and have managed a few more people since my early days and found that procedures are not the killer of innovation if they are administered correctly.

People tend to take shortcuts when workload is increased or when they are not really engaged due to a light workload. Procedures greatly help in these areas as they provide a foundation by which the department will operate and be held accountable.

  • In periods of high workload, it removes the shortcut factor, as staff attempt to increase their work output, and helps the manager keep the staff accountable to good operating standards. Also, this supports the staff when they need to push back on requested deliverable dates of new tasks that continue to arrive on their desks. They can hold the line of “following procedure” when push comes to shove from forces outside the department.
  • In periods of light work, when staff is running on auto pilot, formal procedures are key to maintain a stable environment. Staff will not be seeking signs of trouble and attention to detail will be lessened so the formality of well written procedures will help maintain departmental standards.

It is important that staff provide feedback to draft departmental policies and procedures. After a meeting with effected staff, I would have one of the attending members write the first draft of a new policy or procedure. I would review it and then turn the second draft. In smaller departments, the draft document would be circulated and a meeting held so I could receive group feedback. In larger departments, a steering committee made up of staff members would be formed to represent the views of the effected department staff.

You want the staff to feel they are engaged in the development process so the adoption of new policies and procedures will be smooth and require less of management’s effort to enlist their compliance.

Regularly, I would engage in conversations with my staff on procedural improvements. Also, I encourage my staff to come to me whenever they have an idea for departmental or procedural improvement. This works very well, and we maintain a constant cycle of improvement. In IT management, this was near enough to nirvana.

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