Review : Breaking the Fear Barrier

Breaking the Fear Barrier : How fear destroys companies from the inside out and what to do about it by Tom Rieger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents the Pyramid of Bureaucracy.

At its lowest level is Parochialism. This is a tendency to force others to view the world from only one perspective or through a narrow filter, when local needs and goals are viewed as more important than broader objectives and outcomes. The result is functional silos, protective policies and rules, defining success for what is best for the team and not the wider organisation. Policies and rules are needed in organisations, they only become bad when they protect the team more than they help the organisation. Rules which are absolute promote parochialism, helpful rules promote an organisations ability to serve customers or achieve strategic goals.

To overcome parochialism a company needs to evaluate every rule to ensure it has a clear benefit that it has to the customers, create a better work place, improve financial success, avoid risk or liability, or prevent catastrophe.  Someone must own the rule so that it can be challenged or changed.  A rule must be evaluated for unintended consequences.

In the middle there is Territotialism. Where as parochialism was about protecting the team from the outside, territotialism is about controlling what is going on within the team. The motivation for this is to reduce waste but results in the following happening to team members:

  • the removal of freedoms e.g. enforcing a script when speaking to customers
  • taking away extra time – this can remove the ability to work with other teams and build links
  • eliminate the opportunity to gain knowledge or skills – in times of scarcity this is the first thing usually to be cut
  • restrict information flow – giving managers more control to micro manage
  • withholding support – because the manager does not want to get blamed for potential waste but then there is no chance for new learning

In territotialism it is not just people who are restricted but everything.

To overcome territotialism employees need to be trusted and given freedom to work.  They need to be aligned with the mission of the company and a reasonable set of ground rules.  As an accompaniment to freedom the employees need time to exercise this, the ability to grow and develop as well access to information and resources so they can fully participate and innovate with support from management.

The peak is Empire Building, this is where a team expand their span of control when it is not in the best interests for the company.  This shows as teams competing for shared resources such as IT or recruitment, teams speak on the behalf of other teams to prioritise their work and in the worst case results in duplication of functions e.g. a team forming its own IT department rather than using the standard one which they can not fully control.  These come from trying to reduce costs but the result is in increased costs instead.

Empires try to gain control in four areas information. budget and resource, decision rights and supervisory rights.  When deciding where something should reside these are the questions to answer:

  • impact on financial performance
  • improvement on the workplace
  • strength of customer relationships
  • limiting liability
  • avail catastrophic failure

Beware of courage killers: inconsistency, the blame game, hoarding information, public floggings and rewarding sub-service over service.

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