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Summertime always reminds me of beach movies set on the Jersey Shore. There’s always a boardwalk with an ice-cream stand, a Ferris wheel, and an arcade with lots of lights and sounds. And in that arcade, you can bet there’s an old-school game of “Whack-a-Mole.”
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For the uninitiated, Whack-a-Mole is a game in which an automated “mole” pops its head up and quickly ducks back down into a series of holes. The mole appears randomly and suddenly, while the player attempts to bash it with a mallet. Points accrue when mallet meets mole. The higher the skill level, the faster the mole’s movements.
It occurs to me that the mole is a fitting metaphor for the bureaucracy that often invades foundation operations. It’s hiding there, just under the surface, then pops up when you least expect it – gradually increasing in frequency. Before you know it, bureaucracy becomes a dominant feature in the philanthropic landscape.
Here are three ways to whack bureaucracy before it spreads and entrenches itself.
- Conduct a Bureaucracy Breaker Audit - Gather a team and take a good, honest look at the practices and processes that you currently use.
- Commit to the 50% Principle - First, identify a single form of bureaucracy that currently clogs up the works in your foundation – for example, maybe it takes eight months to make a grant, or you require at least three consultants to submit proposals before you hire the one you already know you should use, or your board docket is two inches thick and no one will ever read it all. Then, brainstorm three things you can do to reduce it by half.
- Think like a two-year-old - As everyone knows, a two-year-old’s go-to question is “why?”. Tap into your inner child and apply this question to everything you do during a day (or week, or grant cycle) at your foundation.