All of us have encountered the "these are the rules, we've always done it this way" type mentality in various businesses and governmental organizations. Perhaps the most extreme example I've heard of bureaucracy in full force occurred when a distinguished-looking gentleman wearing blue jeans walked into a bank and sought to complete a transaction. The teller apologized but explained that it could not be done because the man who handled these particular transactions was out for the day so he would need to return the next day. Since that was the only business the gentleman had in mind, he prepared to leave by asking the teller to validate his parking receipt. The teller politely but firmly told him that their bank policy did not permit the validation of parking without the customer making a financial transaction. The man sought an exception since he had come to do business but the appropriate personnel was not available. She didn't budge. She said, "I'm sorry, but that's our policy." Disturbed by her relentless legalism, the man then completed a transaction. John Acres, then chairman of IBM, withdrew all $1.5 million from his account. He left the bank with his validated parking ticket, and one teller left with a resolve not to be so legalistic at her next job.
When I read this story many years ago in Inc. magazine, I found it hard to believe that anyone could have been that rigid under the circumstances. This is one instance where lack of common sense, combined with a lack of empowerment from corporate leadership, was the real culprit in the transaction. Maybe that's the reason more and more companies are empowering employees to make decisions that make sense, even if they're not in the rule books. Think about it. Use a little creative imagination and common sense, and when the occasion warrants it, move out of the legal sphere and take a sensible action. Take that approach, and I'll see you at the top!
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