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Why We Are Suffocating in Red Tape

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

  1. We entered the industrial revolution.

  2. The invention of machines allowed us to speed up execution.

  3. Fredrick Taylor showed us that production could dramatically accelerate if everyone did it the same way.

  4. Leaders created processes and became managers that think.

  5. Everyone else learned to follow the processes and became workers that do.

  6. Doing it the same way was rewarded with higher salaries.

  7. Productivity continued to accelerate.

  8. Recognizing that industry thrived with repetition and rules, schools reframed learning into lectures, memorization, regurgitation & tests.

  9. Obedience & grades were rewarded. Apprenticeships, experiments & creativity were not.

  10. Workers looked to managers for the 'best way'.

  11. Managers took on (owned) ensuring perfect execution with sound decisions & processes.

  12. Rules, policies, and guidelines defined what was okay.

  13. Decision making solidified to the powerful few (or those willing to lose their jobs).

  14. Compliance cultures emerged.

  15. Workers developed 'Learned Helplessness'.

  16. But then we entered the age of global markets where everyone has access to everything all the time.

  17. The world sped up and became volatile & ambiguous.

  18. Customer demands grew in both quantity and complexity.

  19. Decision makers and system workflows struggled to keep up.

  20. Workers attempting to make progress discovered routines and procedures too complex to overcome.

  21. Delay & inaction emerged.

The philosophies and organizational structures that served us so well in the early 1900's aren't cutting it anymore. This isn't a people problem, we have great people. This is a system problem. But if we wait for the decision makers in our hierarchy to fix it, nothing will get better.

WE have to fix it. WE must become the tribe of rebels dissolving organizational debt and changing the way we work. And it starts with one brave team running one small experiment supported by one smart boss who will create the space and safety for testing and learning and trying again.

. . .

Did you know that I recently launched a new team accelerator designed to help your teams tackle complexity and red-tape so they can deliver better products faster? If you're interested in revolutionizing the way your teams work with collaborative, hands-on missions that deliver results every week, drop us a line at We want to hear from you!

Where the Links Go

NetMBA Business Knowledge Center. (2010). Fredrick Taylor and Scientific Management.

Pflaeging, N. (2015, January 8). Heroes of Leadership: "Founders" acknowledged (Part 1). LinkedIn, . Retrieved from

Godin, S. (2019, June 11). The Learning / Doing Gap. Seth's Blog. Retrieved from

Pflaeging, N. (2017, March 6). Org Physics: The 3 faces of every company. How a triad of structures allows companies to absorb complexity. Medium. Retrieved from

Ashkenas, R (2012, June 5). Learned Helplessness in Organizations. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Dignan, (2016, June 30). How To Eliminate Organizational Debt. Medium. Retrieved from

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