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.”
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.
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.”
How 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.
Thank you for reading!
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