We’ve all been faced with certain bureaucratic processes that not only are frustrating but are ones that can jeopardize the success of our organizations and projects.   I was relating to a colleague today the challenges I had experienced dealing with a specific local government agency in processing an application.  The problem that I was particularly frustrated about was the fact that there was no clear enough process in moving the application forward and there was little transparency.  As such, it seemed that the whole thing hinged on whether the person behind that desk was willing to move things forward to stop it.  As I finished relating the story my friend laughed and said that he was reminded of a saying:

“The world is full of small people.”

This saying rang true especially as I realized that I’ve encountered situations where “small people” who have little power seem to be just in the right place, at the right time, to throw a wrench in the process.  These bureaucrats seem to be in all sorts of organizations, large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit, government and private organizations.

I must admit that I don’t always have the right temperament in dealing with such situations as I find them quite painful.  In some instances I’ve ended up causing bigger problems due to my impatience.  In other instances where I managed to overcome my lack of patience and frustrations I came to realize that these people were simply frustrated too.  Whether it was due to a lack of respect or empowerment, the only way they knew how to vent was to hold on to an antiquated process that frustrated others.

Readers who might come across this, what do you do to deal with “small people”?  How do you neutralize their potential impact on the project?