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Why fighting red tape should be on your priority to-do list

07/02/2012

In this blog we talk a lot about new ideas helping to improve bottom line results, whatever they may be for an organisation.  I hope we’ve also made it clear that we don’t believe in creating change or indeed innovation for innovation’s sake… we’ll leave that to scientists and those organisations with huge R & D budgets.

Our focus is therefore on ideas that improve results – simple as that.

Today, I’m encouraging everyone to take a look at excessive red tape – the kind that stops progress dead in its tracks and wastes your time when all you’re trying to do is improve that bottom line.  We all see it but right now, after encountering several examples at charities I work with, I want us to collectively take a stand and tell pointless bureaucrats that they simply aren’t helping!  Just for once, if we all acted when we came across this enervating practice, the naysayers, i-dotters and excessive t-crossers might actually pay attention and we could all make some actual progress from our efforts.

Example 1

This week a diligent fundraising team I know well received back their gift-aid submission from HMRC with an error slip telling them it was not completed properly and needed to be reviewed and resubmitted.  Aside from the fact that gift-aid returns are laborious, overly manual and tedious in the extreme to complete, the documents apparently also need to be sent by expensive, recorded delivery methods and insured (understandable because of their value to charities).

Their error?  When stuffing the final package with all the paperwork, the directors’ signature page was left on the top of the pile instead of on the bottom.  That’s it.  Everything else was there and complete.  The error slip explained that there was not a completed cover sheet so the whole bundle was returned.  The cover sheet was indeed there, 100% accurate, underneath the signature sheet and indeed date-stamped by whomever opened and processed the package!

So the charity will pay the extra delivery costs, resubmit the same bundle of paper having moved the one page to the bottom of the pile.  they will not complain, however or even have a conversation with HMRC as their experience is that this just makes things worse.  How disgraceful is this situation in 2012?!?

Example 2

Charity Bank is unique in that it is fully accredited and regulated as both a bank and a charity in the UK.  But right now, it is working through what I can only imagine must be a mountain of regulation-related-red-tape to comply with new European banking rules brought in following the financial collapse.

The motivation is clearly sound but the trouble is that some of these new rules are at direct odds with charity law.  So what is Charity Bank supposed to do?  In this instance the Charity Commission is trying to help and is currently considering whether to allow the charity to change its governing documents to allow it to distribute its profits to its charitable shareholders and therefore continue to operate as a regulated bank.

But this ‘consideration’ has been going on for “some weeks…” so what does Charity Bank do in the meantime?  Will the decision even go their way?  How do they plan effectively for two almost diametrically opposed outcomes?

I’m not suggesting significant decisions like this should be rushed but those that make them, embroiled in process in their cocooned worlds really ought to be objectivised and appraised based on the impact their decisions have on the ‘real world’ ie; where the majority of us have to deliver.

Example 3

A simple example but still relevant – in front of our office the local council is digging up trees and reinforcing the banks of a nearby stream to prevent electricity poles from falling over.  Fair enough and very sensible.  The trees in questions, however, provided a natural shield to a busy road so when questioned as to whether they would be replaced, the answer was;

that’s not my department… I can’t comment on what other teams will do… we have internal procedure… you’ll have to speak to them… but they don’t usually talk directly with the public…

There is a plan and process for knocking stuff down but not for re-building.  And no-one is prepared to engage in the conversation.  Well, I’m following my own advice here and very politely following this particular issue up with Council Leaders and I suggest you do the same with whatever red tape nonsense prevents you from making progress.

Remember, more media exposure and interest these days means they can’t ignore all of us!  Power to the People!

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