Most working adults can give at least one example of when getting things accomplished at work was slowed by bureaucracy and red tape.
Multilevel decision making processes slow productivity and can be a source of frustration for workers who are simply trying to do their job.
A church’s internal structure is intended to clarify lines of authority and to support work process flow – while eliminating duplicate systems – not to slow things down.
There are many different types of organizational structures that fit different business or church models.
Occasionally, structures with multi-level reporting relationships can slow the decision-making process between the top and bottom of the organization.
Bureaucracy (administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine) hurts organizations when it creates bottlenecks in the decision-making process – and ultimately, workflow.
This type of multi-layer decision-making slows work processes, which can impact a church’s ability to fulfill its mission.
4 Tips For Minimizing Church Bureaucracy
1. Budget For Emergencies
Unexpected and unplanned emergencies happen. It is important to prepare by budgeting for the unknown.
A church budget allocates dollars to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment needed to run the day-to-day church operation.
This involves going through an annual budgeting process that includes planned equipment replacement.
A budget should also include funds for those unexpected expenditures that are difficult to plan for.
For example, if an accounting clerk is working with an old computer that continually has technical problems, those issues will limit her ability to do her job.
Now imagine that she is expending more of her time troubleshooting the computer issues, talking with tech support, or just rebooting the computer.
That time has been taken away from the tasks that she is responsible for.
A leadership decision to solve this computer problem should be quick and streamlined – particularly when the employee’s job impacts other areas of the church.
2. Empower Employees
Employees need some level of decision making authority.
Empower employees to make decisions about the way they perform their job responsibilities.
This includes allowing them to make quick decisions about work processes that affect their ability to get the job done.
For example, imagine that it has been decided that the worship center needs to be painted.
The painting team has been recruited, assembled and is ready to go to work.
However, the color of the paint needs to be decided by a governing committee.
This delayed decision slows the process and impacts the team’s ability to get the job done.
One approach to eliminating this type of bureaucracy is to provide the team with a pre-determined color palette that they have the authority to choose from – which removes the bottleneck in the process.
Church leaders might want to consider delegating this type of controlled decision-making to front-line employees.
Employees who are empowered to make decisions about how work gets accomplished fulfill job assignments quicker and take pride in what they do.
This results in a more engaged workforce. A goal that every church should have!
3. Set Spending Limits
With empowerment comes responsibility. Employees should feel empowered to make decisions – with predetermined boundaries and spending limits.
Allow church employees to have the flexibility to move quickly on those things that slow the work process or impacts the customer (employee, volunteer, or member) experience.
Allow front-line managers to make process and spending decisions – up to a certain dollar amount.
This allows them to make quick decisions without going through a formal approval process.
For example, suppose the custodian is working with a piece of faulty carpet cleaning equipment. In that case, there should be a streamlined decision-making process to allow for the equipment’s replacement, which would minimize the impact on the employee’s ability to get the job done.
In this example, the custodian’s supervisor should be empowered to make a quick decision to rectify the situation – even if that means replacing the equipment.
4. Coach And Mentor
Allowing employees to make decisions does come with some risks.
Permit employees to make mistakes and use errors in judgment as a learning opportunity.
- Coach and mentor employees on the decision-making process;
- Help them understand the difference between a good and bad decision.
Do this by demonstrating the difference in outcomes between decision choices.
For example, suppose the custodian’s supervisor has the authority to purchase a new carpet cleaner and does so without exploring the possibility of fixing the old. In that case, there needs to be clarification and coaching on other possible decision choices that could have saved the church money and resulted in the same outcome – a working carpet cleaner.
Managing employees comes with many teachable moments.
Coach and mentor employees and teach them the proper way to expedite the decision-making process and eliminate the red tape.
No one likes church bureaucracy. And, organizations that make quick, wise decisions have a strategic competitive advantage.
The secret is to have employees who understand the mission, are given the authority to get the job done, and understand how to do things in the most efficient and cost-effective way.