red.tape.bureaucracyMost people are familiar with the term “red tape.” This term is often associated with bureaucracy and carries negative connotations, referring to burdensome rules that make processes more complicated.

Leisha DeHart-Davis, a professor of public administration and government at the UNC School of Government, has researched the importance of bureaucracy and coined the term “green tape” through her work. But what exactly is green tape?

What Is Green Tape?

To fully understand green tape, you need to look at the history of this idea. DeHart-Davis feels that bureaucracy can be beneficial for society and public sector organizations when effective rules are put in place. To create these policies, organizations must look at the problems they are experiencing and how they can be resolved. Drafting written rules will solve these problems. These must be drafted carefully, though. Effective rules require:

  • The formalization of the rule that shows employees exactly what is expected of them.
  • That the rule makes sense and can resolve the problem at hand.
  • The ability to be applied consistently among all employees.
  • The right combination of free reign and control.
  • Proper understanding of why the rule is in place and why it must be followed.

How Can Green Tape Help?

The red tape rules that are in place throughout bureaucracy often leave employees unwilling to follow them. This is why it is so important for public service organizations to implement green tape rules instead. Green tape rules require in-depth analysis of problems that need to be resolved and examine how rules impact employees and the processes they perform, which means these policies are more likely to meet acceptance.

Green tape rules must clearly show employees why the rule is important and what can happen if it isn’t followed. When employees can easily see the purpose of the rule and possibly even give some input into how the rule is drafted, they are more likely to follow it. While it may take some time to see a positive impact from implementing green tape into the workplace, employees will eventually become more accepting of the new rules. Once society sees the benefits of more effective rules in government agencies and organizations, the green tape will have a positive impact on society as a whole.

How Can Organizations Get Started?

Now that you are familiar with green tape and what it can do for your organization, it is time to get started. DeHart-Davis recommends asking a few questions before you begin making rules. To ensure these rules fall under the umbrella of green tape, organizations must ask:

  • What is the worst case scenario if you do not make a rule in regard to a problem?
  • Do you know what the objectives of the rule will be?
  • What is the root cause of the issue and will a rule remedy that?

When you can answer these questions, you will gain a clear view on whether drafting a rule in regard to a specific issue will make things easier for your employees or if it will make things more tedious. The goal is to make the process easier, not more complicated.

Bureaucracy may have a negative stigma attached to it, but this doesn’t mean it’s all bad. It is more beneficial for society to approach bureaucracy from a positive standpoint. With the use of green tape methods of creating rules, public sector organizations can change the public view of bureaucracy.


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