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Minimal Viable Bureaucracy

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I recently attended a conference where one speaker had a great phrase – “minimal viable bureaucracy” (MVB). Being in government for nearly twenty years, I love the idea of no more bureaucratic process than is necessary to achieve an objective. MVB reminds me of adaptive case management (ACM), which I have used in several agencies to build processes.

The idea behind ACM is to create a simple process and then evolve the process when encountering new cases. Instead of building a process designed to handle all eventualities (which never works), the process grows to handle exceptions and incorporates what is learned into building out the process. Learning is built into the system.

MVB is the approach I take to project management. I have seen too many project managers spend more time managing the project process, rather delivering on the project product. I remember working with one person who continually fiddled around with his Microsoft Project spreadsheets as if that would solve the project issue. I had him abandon his spreadsheets and focus on the project team and customers in front of him.

We redesigned his project management process to be simpler and focused. Thankfully, we were on time and successfully delivered the project product without too much schedule delay and disruption to the customer. This incident and others taught me the wisdom of keeping it simple and focusing on outcomes.

The trick is that once you start with a simple process and grow it in complexity, how do you keep the process from becoming burdened with no-longer-needed routines? How does the process grow and shrink as needed? Something that I plan to explore in future postings.