I find it really interesting how rules and regulations often stop people from doing important work. Everyone knows how it often stands in the way of justice, of positive change and innovation.
Looking at countries instead of organisations is an interesting thought experiment. The countries which have the longest democratic history are the countries with the most rules and regulations. Why? Because they’ve existed for the longest. The longer they exist for, the more rules and regulations become codified and enforced.
The same is true of organisations. The NHS is a really good example of this. As a startup founder working in the NHS I have had first hand experience of this. There are layers and layers of management* and bureaucracy. The NHS is a very old organisation, deals with very sensitive information and is also a political tool. Is it any wonder that it has so many rules and regulations?
I suppose the interesting question is; Can it change?
I don’t think it can.
Larry Page, who clearly takes innovation and change seriously, has previously talked about how as Google got bigger they started to worry about innovation slowing down at the organisation. He started wondering if he could get rid of some of the rules and regulations in place that had come in to place as the organisation grew. He realised he couldn’t significantly do it because Google are in practically every country around the world, have tens of thousands of employees and that there needs to be a lot rules and regulations in place at this point in time (Google however are a very clever organisation and they have systems and organisational tools in place to ensure that they always remain innovative despite the regulations in place). It does seem inevitable that as countries and organisations age that the rules and regulations will continue to get bigger and bigger.
As a side note – one suggestion Larry did mention was that it would be interesting to take out an old regulation every time a new regulation is put in place to circumvent too much stifling. I noted today that Donald Trump is actually going to make this a policy in America. It will be very interesting to see what happens with regards to this and whether other countries and organisations will follow suit, as it is a very good idea.
The part about regulations is at 1.30
*Some people say that the NHS isn’t over managed as compared to other organisations we have a reasonable number of managers per thousand employees in comparison to other organisations. However, it isn’t the number of managers in the NHS which is the problem. It is the way that the organisation is structured and the role they play in the organisation which is the problem.