Saturday, July 11, 2009

Inertia not initiative prevails in bureaucracy

This quotes Bob Nelson, author of the best-selling book, 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, ISBN: 076111405X

[start of quote]
"Taking the initiative" can mean many things--tapping inner creativity, tackling a persistent problem, capitalizing on opportunities, or creating ways to improve customer services or current work environment. By taking initiative in any of these ways, employees can elevate their visibility in the organization and greatly enhance their chances for recognition, learning, advancement, pay raises and bonuses, as well as have a more meaningful and exciting time at work.

Here are some ways any employee can take greater initiative in his or her job, voiced in a way that you could give directly to your employees or managers. It's one thing to tell your employees to take greater initiative, but another to provide them with easy and clear ways to do it.

Ways To Take More Initiative In Your Job

Thinking Outside the Box: Innovation--thinking outside the box--is the spark that keeps organizations moving ever onward and upward. To think outside the box, look for new combinations, ask "what if" or develop "what-if" scenarios, consider approaches you've never considered before, brainstorm with others, and be a champion of new ideas.

Doing Your Homework: Preparation is often the key to success in any endeavor. You will be more successful in convincing others that what you believe is the right thing, if you are armed and ready with the facts. Taking the initiative to do your homework means doing the basic research necessary to back up your claims, such as obtaining necessary information, determining costs and benefits, making calculations, and/or gaining buy-in from others who will be affected.

Taking Action--Capitalizing on Opportunities: Taking action can often be a scary proposition. It would be much easier to wait for your boss to make the decision and take the responsibility to tell you what to do and when to do it. However, progressive companies realize that they need employees at all levels who are willing and encouraged to take chances and to make decisions--and be willing to take responsibility for their actions.

Making Improvements: One of the easiest--and most effective--ways for employees to take initiative is to be on the lookout for ways to improve the work processes, products, services, and systems that are a vital part of how the organization does its business. In fact, the closer you are to an organization's actual product, the greater the chance is that you have more daily contact with its real business--its customers, clients, products, and services--than do those who are higher up the ladder.

Perseverance and Persistence: Employees who excel at taking initiative usually must also persist in the support of the ideas and actions in which they believe. This type of initiative can, at times, include overcoming the resistance of higher-ups or of entrenched policies and systems that work to ensure the maintenance of the status quo. It often takes a certain degree of courage to take initiative in the first place. But to persist--even over the objections of your manager or others--takes even more commitment and courage.

Taking initiative can be as simple as asking "what if." So, the next time you're doing a routine task, remember that it's the person who does the job who is in the best position to know how to do the job better--whether this improvement means identifying new ways to cut costs, how to make improvements to the way products are developed in your company, how a process might be streamlined, or how to enhance the level of services your customer receives.
[end quote]

More from the book:
"All progress is made in defiance of management." - Bob Woodward, Reporter, The Washington Post
"New ideas... are not born in a conforming environment." - Roger von Oech, President, Creative Think, Inc.
"Be Proactive, Not reactive.... Asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission. If you know what needs to be done, do it now and explain yourself later."
"Our people...are responsible for their own product and its quality. We expect them to act like owners." - Gordon Forward, President, Chaparral Steel

"The four cornerstones of character on which the structure of this nation was built are: Initiative, Imagination, Individuality and Independence."  - American war hero Eddie Riclenbacker. Do we have those to rebuild this nation? Ever wondered why despite all the new idealistic graduates that enter the Philippine bureaucracy each year, the bureaucracy remains the way it is - sluggish, bloated, stagnant, so full of itself? It is because the well entrenched bureaucracy does not understand what initiative is as pointed out by Nelson. The bureaucracy is too mindful of itself defending the status quo. To them the only initiative that matters is the initiative that preserves the present order. Inertia prevails. I call it INERTIATIVE - the readiness to preserve the current comfort level.

The fresh graduates brimming with idealism are slowly gnawed up by the system. They mature into zombies themselves gobbling up succeeding idealists that come. It is a vicious spiraling cycle with no end in sight unless we start to care and be heroes.

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