How Policy and Procedure Kills Creativity

Shawn Casemore • No Comment
Posted: July 21, 2016

I’ve found repeatedly those organizations that struggle with resolving problems and reaching consensus in decision-making are the very same organizations that fail to create an environment in which creativity exists. This holds particularly true in companies in which policy, procedure and regulation are the key factors behind how work is performed.

When I worked in the energy sector, an industry heavily burdened with regulation, policy and procedure, the shear volume of procedures restricted employees in their ability to be creative. There was for example a procedure for parking; honk twice and reverse into your parking space. Failure to follow this procedure often resulted in the security group providing a ticket to your manager for discussion and reinforcement. On one hand it’s been proven that reversing into a parking space reduces traffic incidents, however the reality is that parking is also a fundamental skill that everyone who has a license must master before they ever hit the road.

Diminish the ability for people to use their fundamental skills and capabilities and you also quickly kill their creativity.

My point isn’t to suggest that procedures or policies are a bad thing, however if they are plentiful they will in fact reduce employees ability and desire to think for them.

For employees to be creative, it’s necessary to build an environment in which they are provided freedom and autonomy to make decisions. Considerations to create this environment include:

* Greater involvement in the development and revision of procedures

* Scheduled time for brainstorming solutions for organizational challenges

* Cross-functional teams formed around customer segments

* Collaborative team reviews of existing procedures with autonomy to revise for greater productivity and efficiency

The list goes on.

My point is this. Before you consider writing or initiating another procedure, consider the impact this may have on the creativity in your organization or team. Although structure and policy may create consistency in employee actions, it also diminishes an employee’s desire to think proactively and creatively. Instead, involve employees in the formulation of guidelines and create an environment in which procedures are dynamic not static. The result will be greater creativity and higher morale and that’s a consistent outcome you can take to the bank.

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© Shawn Casemore 2015. All rights reserved.

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