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Simon says, “Be skilled at using informal strategies to get things done.”

Simon certainly is talking from experience. There are formal policies, procedures, and ways things are to be done. It is also true they sometimes do not work and situations come up where there is no formalized approach that will get from here to there in the time available to get there. Now and then, though, people take this to mean they can ignore the rules, not pay attention to the formal processes. This definitely is not Simon’s point. The informal approach supplements formal procedures and is not a substitute for them.

People also sometimes see the informal approach as a convenient way to bypass the chain of command, to shortcut processes they think take too long, to shop around for the decision they want, or to avoid jobs they do not like. This is not what Simon has in mind either. For Simon, the informal approach is simply one more strategy available to him within the formal context.

Simon wants his team to use informal strategies, to talk with each other, to informally innovate when they need to, to avoid being too rigid about the rules when something unusual comes up that does not quite fit into the established procedures. They are responsible people who can and are expected to use their good judgment and common sense. Simon liberally uses informal strategies himself; but you can have too much of a good thing.

Being skilled at using informal strategies includes knowing when to use them and when formal is best. If informal strategies are used too much or inappropriately, things become disorganized, efficiency and quality suffer. If they are used too little, the team becomes rigid and inflexible, creativity and innovation disappear, and the team loses its cutting edge. On Simon’s winning team, the real skill in using informal strategies is in finding and maintaining the balance.

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