News - March 12, 2009


Bureaucracy seems to be hard to deal with. Forty percent of the staff indicated in the Medewerkersmonitor (a staff satisfaction survey) that they were hindered in their work by Wageningen UR forms and procedures.

Yet there was only one entrant in the competition for ideas about how to reduce bureaucracy organized by the AFSG knowledge unit. This was Marcel Zwietering, Professor of Food microbiology, and he offered nine commandments to reduce the pressure of work and of rules and regulations. Tip one: ‘For every new bureaucratic rule or form, two should be scrapped’. Tip four: ‘Before introducing a new rule, management should ask: am I going to keep to this myself? If the answer is ‘No, actually, because I’m too busy’, this is a clear indication that the rule is wrong.’

More and more rules are being made, Zwietering thinks, but he doesn’t want to just moan about the pressure they create. ‘I want people to think twice before they burden others with a rule or a form: is it really necessary, does it serve the purpose I have in mind?’

This really is not just about managers – other staff could make life easier for each other too. For example through some kind of email etiquette. ‘I think people too often press reply to all, even though the mail is to one person. The rule should be: reply to sender, and only in exceptional cases to all. Also, people too often forget to attach the promised attachment. That is really annoying if you send the email to sixty people. My point is: be aware of what you are doing.’ The last commandment is about this too. Tip 9: ‘If by spending one hour more of our time we can save twenty other people quarter of an hour, we spend that hour.’