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Power is sometimes assumed when not granted.

How many times have you heard someone say “Let’s do it now and ask permission later?”  It’s a common practice in companies where there is a barrier between levels in the chain of command, or lack of communication between contemporaries.  The statement represents a failing at some point in the delegation or communication chain by a higher level of angry_employeemanagement, and should be taken as a warning that there is a problem greater than the issue handled at the moment.

I’ve worked with organizations that are so large that extensive paperwork is required to obtain approvals to accept customer orders, make any purchases of any size, or any commitment of resources.  In every case, people try to stretch those restrictions in as many ways as possible to get around the time taken to complete forms and lost in waiting for approvals.  It’s the “order prevention department” syndrome.

Incomplete delegation of responsibilities, or controls that are too tight, both lead to a rationale for subordinates to circumvent the system.  The worst thing about this is that the people most likely to do this are those most entrepreneurial and creative in doing their jobs.  Conversely, those most likely to fall back and seek guidance, clarification and direction are those most subservient and least creative.

Middle managers sometimes identify those who assume power as non-conformists or even troublemakers. It is rare to ever see a dialog come out of such an event that leads to better defined delegation of responsibilities, removal of roadblocks, or relaxation of overly restrictive rules.  More often such actions lead to reprimands without analysis of the underlying general cause.  And occasionally, the very creative, driven individuals you would otherwise celebrate are made candidates for elimination instead of catalysts for change.


  • Wernard Shoy

    To overcome this, managers must have broad powers, become quick to respond to requests, and remove barriers.

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