Bureaucracy = Death

So, we learn today that the F.A.A. was Alerted on Qaeda in ’98, 9/11 Panel Said – New York Times. Cockpit door locks would have saved thousands of lives.

A good friend is speaking at a major philanthropy conference and the organizers won’t permit him to distribute a one page flyer about his organization. They are "too busy" to approve it.

Gave a talk to a pharma company last week, and the marketers there are wringing their hands because of the sea change in the way people view their work. No, they’re not evil. Yes, the mindless bureaucracy continued to grind out products and ads and policies that weren’t in anyone’s best interest.

The victims of New Orleans know firsthand what happens when a large bureaucracy with lots of money and not enough responsibility fails to action when it should.

And what does all this have to do with marketing?


Very little remarkable comes out of bureaucracies for a simple reason. The members of the bureaucracy seek to be beyond reproach. Reproach is their nightmare, their enemy, the thing to avoid at all costs. And the remarkable feels like a risk.

Here’s an idea I wrote about in a book a long time ago:

Appoint a CNO—chief no officer. No longer can someone say no to an idea and leave it at that. If you want to turn something down, you’ve got to pass it on to your boss. Then either he says yes or gives it to his boss. For a "no" to be official, it’s got to be approved by the chief no officer and countersigned by every manager along the way.

So, what would have happened if the FAA or FEMA had a CNO? Who would have had the guts to turn down cockpit door locks if saying "no" meant the idea would go upstairs?

And what happens to any organization that creates a culture where maintaining the status quo requires your boss to give you the okay?

Of course, it’s not this simple. But the very act of talking about it helps people focus on what’s killing their organization. I don’t care if you’re in radio, packaged goods, organized religion or an online merchant. If you’re not saying yes to change, you’re slowly losing whatever race you happen to be in.