THE MINISTRY OF COMMON SENSE : How To Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses & Corporate BSMartin Lindstrom
LIGHTLY USED, HARDCOVER
Shed Light On The Absurdity & Inefficiency of Bureaucracy And Corporate Culture, Providing Insights & Strategies To Overcome Common Challenges And Eliminate Unnecessary Red Tape
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★★ WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER ★★
A humorous yet practical five-step guide to ridding ourselves—and our companies—of bureaucratic bottlenecks and red tape
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the TSA is allowing passengers to board planes with unlimited amounts of hand sanitizer, while maintaining its 3.4-ounce limit on all other liquids. You need a chainsaw to pry open your new pair of headphones from their package. Your eighth Zoom meeting of the day keeps freezing, and if you hear “No, wait; no, you go first” again, you will implode. But first you have to sit through an endless Power Point presentation that everyone claims they’ve read, no one has, and that could have been summarized in one page.
☞ How come every Zoom call lasts exactly 1 hour no matter how mundane the call is? And why did all the toilet-breaks disappear as Zoom became everyday work life in our bedrooms?
☞ Why has a simple action like buying office equipment turned into a 6-people-committee decision followed by a 5-level approval process?
What has happened to common sense? And how can we get it back?
Companies, it seems, have become so entangled in their own internal issues, and further beset by reams of invisible red tape, that they’ve lost sight of their core purpose. Inevitably, they pay the price. The more organizations scale and get stale, the more employees become victims of standardized rules, procedures and old habits that have never been questioned for logic. Once we’ve learned to become corporate, we suppress our instinctual empathy and ignore what we know about right vs. wrong and smart vs. foolish.
We forget how we’d feel in a customer’s shoes if a bank froze our accounts, if a telecom company sent a nasty letter, or if a call-centre transferred us five times. Before long, most of us become not only numb, but complicit in crimes of corporate nonsense, even when they lead to frustrated customers, poor morale, lost revenue, and stifled innovation.
Best-selling author Martin Lindstrom combines numerous real‑life examples of corporate common sense gone wrong with his own ingenious plan for restoring logic—and sanity—to the companies and people that need it most. A must-read for today’s executives, managers, and employees, The Ministry of Common Sense is funny, entertaining, and immensely practical.
Therefore, ‘The Ministry of Common Sense’ chronicles bizarre rules, practices and the “invisible red tape” that surrounds employees and corporations. He reminds us that when people start working for an organization, something strange happens to them. They forget that they are human and start adhering to rules, procedures and use cryptic acronyms that make no sense to anyone outside their company. When that happens, organizations don’t focus on what really matters to its business and customers.
Martin Lindstrom quotes Harriet Beecher Stowe, who defined common sense as ‘Seeing things as they’re; and doing things as they ought to be done.” Behind the lack of common-sense, Martin, says is an absence of empathy. The unfretted march of technology and corporate politics are also some of its causes, he says. Meetings and PowerPoint, not surprisingly, are culprits too.
What has happened to common sense? And how can we get it back? Companies, it seems, have become so entangled in their own internal issues, and further beset by reams of invisible red tape, that they’ve lost sight of their core purpose. Inevitably, they pay the price. In business, six issues undermine common sense :
◆ 1. Businesses that focus more on their stock market results than their customers lose valuable opportunities to create long-term loyalty, growth and profit.
◆ 2. Office politics exacerbate issues in any layered organization with multiple locations and divisions. These organizations falter when they don’t integrate across silos.A lack of understanding of other people’s roles can spark turf wars fueled by “ego, hierarchy, power” and money.
◆ 3. Technology increases convenience and saves time, but it often displaces people’s common sense. In 2018, Swiss International Air Lines wanted to reduce costs at its head office. A vendor proposed a lighting system with sensors that shut off the lights when a room was empty. The lights went out repeatedly when people were in meetings or working at their desks.
◆ 4. Many meetings and PowerPoint presentations waste time and effort. When customers hear Lindstrom’s presentation and ask him to send a PowerPoint deck, he knows they don’t like his idea, and no one will read what he sends.
◆ 5. Companies often have official and unofficial rules and policies. Since no one can read the unofficial set of dictates, they take on a life of their own.
◆ 6. Compliance and legal departments run all companies. They can define what you wear to work and how you talk with customers. This destroys self-agency.
The Ministry of Common Sense shows you how to restore common sense, and enjoy the benefits that come with it! (and we mean real company benefits). What you’re about to read isn’t just sporadic ideas but solutions tried and tested among hundreds of businesses over the past decade. And shown to work.
And yes – there are indeed real Ministries – set up within companies – with the sole purpose of vacuum cleaning all the useless rules, regulations and day-to-day trivialities we all can live without. It covers topics such as communication, decision-making, innovation, and leadership, and provides insights into how these areas can be optimized for maximum impact
To restore common sense, support a focus on “human to human” interaction and adopt the term “H2H” rather than B2B or B2C. “We’ve permitted technology and data to overwrite centuries of accumulated human intuition.” Companies can instil common sense in following 5 ways:
● 1. “Activate the need for change.” :
People fear big changes and actively resist them. Instead of projecting 10 years from now, chief executives should look one or two years ahead. Lindstrom interviewed many of the employees at a large corporation to determine the organization’s resistance to change and to ignite the need for change. These conversations uncovered the company’s “real” organizational chart – as opposed its official one – revealing who drives change and how the firm handles problems.
In one exercise, Lindstrom gave participants cameras and asked them to photograph things in the company that showed a lack of common sense and to write an explanation. Next, he asked executives to define an “ideal company.” Their descriptions usually required fixing the problems that emerged from the conversations with their employees. “The problems a company suffers from internally are usually mirrored externally.” Then Lindstrom asked the executives to find a word that encompassed their organization’s mission and purpose. For example, at Disney, the word is “magic” and, at Volvo, the word is “safety.” Selecting just one word to represent a firm (for example “human”) gives employees a clear yardstick, grants them more autonomy and becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
● 2. Change takes courage, so make sure any turnaround is quick :
Find small changes or “proof points” you can complete and celebrate in 90 days. This built-in urgency focuses employees and dissipates office politics. It stops people in upper management from talking themselves out of instituting changes. A series of small changes has a positive influence on corporate culture. “If small changes can have immediate and positive effects, imagine what much larger changes can do.” Making too many adjustments in your change strategy along the way will undermine your initiatives. Projects start out as bright, shiny ideas with sharp corners, but people erode those edges as they modify the initiative. To avoid this, write the core idea of the change plan and refer to it frequently during implementation.
● 3. Celebrate your successes :
Employees who are working hard to implement change can feel disheartened if their work is not visible to senior executives, so involve your top people. When executives interact with the people who are making the change or responding to customer issues, their support underscores the permanence of the change. “No matter how small or insignificant a change may appear, it holds symbolic value for the other members of the tribe.” Importantly, companies should acknowledge their employees’ contributions by celebrating any success, large or small. This makes staff members feel valued, and it strengthens their feeling of belonging.
● 4. When you mandate a change, never leave a way of going back :
A classic three-act movie plot is similar to the story of change within a company. When companies transform, the change effort stalls about three-quarters of the way through; in a movie this is the Act 2 “all is lost” moment. Seemingly insurmountable problems will arise at about this point. It’s important to realize that they are solvable. “Make sure you have a concrete solution ready for whatever problems come up – and that you communicate [it] to everyone.” In Act 3 of a movie, the friction is settled. In companies, the tipping point for change arrives when everyone involved realizes change is really happening, and they must change their behaviour and mindset in parallel.
● 5. Foster a culture of contribution :
To encourage greater contribution from your employees, identify internal change agents. These people are like “personal trainers” who will push the company out of its comfort zone. Often, they will not be high-level employees. Ask them to change one aspect of their work in order to improve it. After a month, have them tell the group what they found. Ask them to identify five other change agents.
Use storytelling to ignite the desire for change. People act on emotion, not facts, so you can reach them by creating a storytelling culture that teaches and encourages them to tell emotional stories that support common sense. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy asked a custodian at NASA what his job was; the janitor said he was there “to put a man on the moon.” He exemplifies how everyone at a company should connect to its mission.
The author offers a simple change management technique to regain common-sense. Familiar steps include starting small, showcasing value, getting the “low hanging fruits” , celebrating success and using stories to evangelize the process across the organization. Establishing a “Ministry of Common Sense” within an organization, he says, could help ensure the organization’s muscle memory is weakened enough to prevent a relapse to old habits.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BOOK :
1. TRUE STORIES. It happens more than you think. Martin shares humorous stories from companies around the world who suffer the bureaucratic bottlenecks and red tape that plague every office to the detriment of the customer. Prepare to laugh and then get serious.
2. PURPOSE. Companies have become so entangled in their own internal issues, and further beset by reams of invisible red tape, that they’ve lost sight of their core purpose. This book reveals how they pay the price and shows the path back to purpose.
3. SOLUTIONS. The Ministry of Common Sense is all about forcing stumbling organisations (and some of the world’s biggest appear in the book) to revisit the ever lost common sense
4. TRANSFORMATION & INNOVATION. Shows you how to instantly remove unproductive BS, unblock innovation, and create an amazing culture. Ultimately reinstalling common sense.
Creating a Ministry of Common Sense won’t fix every problem, but if it resolves a quarter of them, that’s a win. The goal is a corporate culture that doesn’t need a Ministry to reduce spending on ridiculous policies, rules or regulations. When that overview becomes an intrinsic part of your company’s practices, your employees won’t need to ask why they are doing something that doesn’t make sense.
The Ministry of Common Sense is a funny, insightful, and practical book that provides a blueprint for creating a more productive, innovative, and humane workplace. If you are tired of the bureaucracy and BS that often stifles success, then this book is for you.
About the Author :
Best-selling business author MARTIN LINDSTROM is a well-known international management consultant who routinely sees various kinds of “corporate constipation” all over the world. Over the years, he has learned how to quickly pinpoint and then eradicate these bothersome hurdles in companies of all sizes. He is the founder and chairman of Lindstrom Company, the world’s leading business and culture transfor- mation group, operating across five continents and in more than thirty countries. The author of several New York Times bestseller – his eight books have been translated into sixty languages. Lindstrom is among the “world’s 100 most influential people” (Time magazine) and the “world’s top 20 business thinkers” for 2020 (Thinkers50).
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