The Way of the Monkey
All transformation starts with the Monkey. Something has to cause a disruption, because people need to understand that the status quo is no longer okay.
The Monkey probes and provokes, learns how the organization really works—its politics, dynamics, people’s hidden motivations—then uses those learnings as a lever to move the unmovable. The Monkey does so with good humor and a light touch (the Sumo Wrestler weighs in later), along with an annoying persistence and lack of fear. He’s the iconoclast who questions what’s obviously true, just because it is obviously true. He’s not bothered when he’s pinned under a mountain of bureaucracy, because sooner or later he’ll move the mountain. He winks as he disrupts and smiles—because after all, this is kind of fun.
Here are some techniques you’ll want to borrow from the Monkey.
- Provoke and Observe: Provoke and observe is the ultimate monkey technique. It’s the tactic of testing the bureaucracy by provoking it and seeing what happens.
- Be Curious: Once you know why a bureaucratic rule is in place, then you can be creative in finding better ways to satisfy its intent.
- Ban Learned Helplessness: Just as bureaucrats leave their biases at home, monkeys fight against inappropriate constraints.
- Repersonalize: No-sayers don’t have enough accountability for growing revenues. They must be engaged in innovating and growing the company, or they’ll always pose a bureaucratic obstacle.
- Motivate through Stories: There’s power in any change agent’s stories about how unexamined bureaucratic bric-a-brac is cluttering the way of accomplishing the company’s mission and frustrating customers.
- Accept Personal Risk: The key to taking risks is to not really take them. It’s to assess risk better than the official process does.
- Create Urgency: To get bureaucratic change to happen, you need to inject urgency by showing that today’s practices are unacceptable.
- Advertise the Cost of Delay: There’s a cost to bureaucracy that should be weighed against the benefits of the controls it provides.
- Apply Servant Leadership: Red tape is an impediment. Whose job is it to remove the impediment? Yours and mine.
- Conduct Pilots, Get Exceptions: When the rules can’t be changed directly, take advantage of any exception process allowed.