Strangle yourself with red tape, why don’t you?

This column is dedicated to all senior directors and VPs, not just those in the IT industry. There seems to be an economic slowdown. Gosh, what a surprise.

Y2K, remember that? It caused such a huge demand for equipment and cabling that the sales people at Nortel and Intel thought it would last forever. The dot-com loonies, who managed to con people out of lots of money without business plans or products, killed market trust in the information technology sector. Fuel prices certainly haven’t helped. They went nuts before the U.S. presidential election, which created as much market confusion as Alan Greenspan might were he to start wearing ball gowns when adjusting interest rates.

When economic hard times hit, it is tremendously important that you, the senior manager, take on as much wildly pointless bureaucracy as possible. You really need to see every travel requisition, time off request, vacation notice, supply requisition, and water cooler bill for the whole company. In addition, it’s really important that your direct reports spend time searching out why someone in the DBA group needed an ergonomic keyboard and that they write up a report detailing why this purchase was necessary. Make sure that you also schedule weekly conference calls with the other managers at your level to discuss all the petty little requests that come from your staff. Be sure that they are all in the right format so that the procurement group won’t hold things up.

Whatever you do, make sure that you leave absolutely no time for strategic planning to bring innovative products and services to the market faster so that return on investment can be realized. Just keep replying to pointless e-mails until the market improves. Try not to get fired. Heads down. Look busy. Hang yourself by your tie or panty hose (or both) out the nearest window.

On the other hand, why not – while the rest of the company spins around looking for a tarpaulin for its butt – do something creative? Can you reduce the cost of a process or service while at the same time increasing speed and quality? Typically we think that speed requires more fuel and quality requires more time. Not so. Speed and quality are normally found in simplicity. Think of your favourite Web page. I bet it allows you to find what you want fast. This wasn’t an accident.

In addition, why not be creative with the travel and expense reporting process? In my view employees should handle their own requests because they have the greatest interest in where they are seated on a plane and if the hotel room is non-smoking. A system could be set up where employees book their own requests via an internal Web page. The hotels and other suppliers would be notified. Upon return, the employee pounds in the expense information, justifying why he stayed at the Four Seasons instead of the Best Western, and Accounting takes over. No approvals and no reviews by senior managers. Instead, have the system report to the manager in question that someone is travelling, how much it was and whether the trip was over budget. Then audit the odd looking reports. This is the 85/15 rule at work. Why review all requests when only a fraction of them will be wrong? Think of it as corporate Darwinism. The system will ferret out the numbskulls who thought you weren’t watching and will be more fun than what you’re doing now.

Ford ( owns Vancouver-based Quokka Systems Consulting, which specializes in Web-enabled travel industry products and services (hint, hint).