Regardless of your rank, you should never underestimate the power of others to circumvent, delay, and block your decisions.
Some classic bureaucratic smothering techniques are:
Mistakes. “The plans for the kick-off were sent to Brussels instead of the Boston office. Don’t worry, we’ll get matters straightened out.” Eventually.
Inflated Estimates. “That will take at least three days.” (That = one phone call + two hours of work.)
Non-Agreement Agreement. “When we said yes, it meant that we understood you, not that we agreed.” And no, these individuals don't speak another language.
Convenient Memory Lapses. “Gee, that must have slipped my mind.” All undesirable instructions slip the mind.
Parsing. “When you said that you wanted an update on the status of the move, I thought you simply wanted the date of the move.”
Musical Chairs. “Rex is no longer in charge of that project. Ellen now has it. She’s in Europe for three weeks. We can’t find her notes.”
Timing. “We meant to send that out two months ago, but felt the recipients might confuse it with the Marketing Report so we didn’t mail it. Should we have told you?”
Barrier Collusion. “Our colleagues in the Cleveland office found a reason why that won’t work. They are opposing any action until upper management has reviewed it.”
Sandwiching. “We’ve analyzed the situation and have produced three possible courses of action. You’ll note two extremes. Our recommendation is the moderate one in the middle.”
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.