Branch Mentality and Sanctuary Cities

Every multi-unit company suffers from branch mentality. I’ve worked with many, and no matter how much they promote a corporate culture and team spirit, branch mentality creeps in sometimes.

It comes in two versions; the outposts’ attitude and the headquarter’s complaint.

In the outpost, where service is delivered, it goes something  like this. “Those people at corporate just don’t understand what we do. They hand us rules that interfere with our ability to get the job done. If they knew how difficult it is to run operations on a daily basis, they wouldn’t burden us with these useless procedures.”

At the main office, the complaint is a mirror image. “Those people in the field want to do things any way they please. They don’t understand how important consistency is to our customers. When we ask that things be done the same way in each location, they act like we are interfering instead of just doing our job.”

Sanctuary Cities

In politics, the issue of Sanctuary Cities is similar. Since the founding of the United States of America, the individual states have resisted unity on many levels. I’ve often had to explain to businesspeople from other nations that they can’t just set up shop anywhere in the USA and begin selling nationwide.

Each state has its own licensing, taxation, consumer protection and labor requirements. These variances were accepted as a kind of background noise until the passage of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) where states were specifically permitted to opt out of a national law.

I’m certain that this high-profile exercise of states’ rights had a lot to do with subsequent movements to “opt out” of Federal statutes on marijuana and discrimination based on gender identity.

City dwellers have been increasing as a percentage of the total population for over a century. In some states, one or two large cities account for a majority of the state’s population. Sanctuary Cities are just one aspect of local representative governments now extending their lawmaking authority to opt out of regulations from higher up that their citizens don’t like.

Branch Balkanization

It may be tempting for an owner to let managers in the field go their own way. “You are closest to the customer, do what you think is best. As long as you achieve profitability and growth goals, decisions on the ground are yours.”

Choose a pathHow far does decentralized authority  extend? If a store can choose it’s own methods, why not allow the same authority to each manager? Certainly the clientele who shop or eat early in the morning differ from late night customers. Shouldn’t you then allow methodologies to be delegated to the lowest operational level?

Of course, you won’t keep customers very long if they don’t know what to expect when they walk in. That way lies anarchy.

The authority of central governance should be limited to what needs to be centralized. The way to combat branch mentality is to mandate those things that control your offering and presentation to the public. Those rules are inviolable. Flexibility in implementation is acceptable, as long as the most important features of the company’s offering never vary.

If a rule becomes merely a suggestion it is not only ineffective, but you could start a process that degrades other, more important rules along with it.

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2 Responses to Branch Mentality and Sanctuary Cities

  1. John Lind says:

    In my other life, while being a Corporate person, I became completely entrenched in the Corporate philosophy based on expectations, performance, strategic direction, planning, bench mark standards, consistency of customer relations, product quality, performance guarantees, and team work and development of personnel. These points worked well and the Corporation met financial expectations in the marketplace and stayed ahead of the competition that was consistently on our heals. If there was a ‘sanctuary’ location it would have not worked… the same goes for cities that believe they should be ‘sanctuary’ city on the Federal dime. Cut off the Federal dime if they are allowed to maintain a ‘sanctuary’ city., Consistency should be paramount across the USA.

  2. Gordon Stuart says:

    I think you left a key level off – that is multi – national. I used to work for an Australian Bank who we referred to as IAW – standing for “In Australia We” . This was how they started the sentence to talk down to you whether I was in London or Auckland.
    There is a whole subject here on cultural or market differences – my experience is Australia, NZ, UK, Canada and USA are all very different and despite being in the same industry you need to be careful with acquisitions!

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