On delegation

As a person who spent a lot of time in government facilities, I developed an acute case of red line allergy. Not all bureaucratic process are inherently bad though. A line to the cashier is arguably the best way to coordinate buyers in a shop to share a limited resource of cashier’s time.

I think the common pattern of harmful policies is separation of problem, goals, decision and rules. Everyone could be doing their best, and still the system as a whole is terrible.

Here’s how it works. Once upon a time there was a problem. Some important smart guy created a goal to solve or mitigate the problem. Some less important folks made a set of decisions to achieve the goal. Those decisions were passed down to the least important crowd in the organization to make them rules and put mindless minions in charge of enforcing those rules.

Decision makers working on the goal didn’t see the problem clearly. Policy makers working on the rules didn’t care about neither goal nor problem. Rule enforcers never asked about the decisions.

And here I am, banging my head against the layers of walls, trying to get things done, but jumping hoops instead.

If I were to make it right, I’d let rule enforcers solve the problem on their own. So that they can be in charge of their decisions. And so that they would know when to break the rules. You may say that it’s not scalable, but I’d say it’s a matter of where to cut the delegation. At the lowest level, horizontally, or at the problem level, vertically.