Do your policies pass the ease-of-doing-business test?

I was sitting in an airport waiting for my flight. It looked like everything was going to be on time when the announcement came.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are overbooked for today’s flight. I need one person whose travel plans are flexible to volunteer to take a later flight. No one will board the plane until someone volunteers. We will provide a $500 flight voucher that can be used on any future flight …

Within about 10 minutes the airline had a volunteer and we were ready to begin the boarding process. But there was something about the announcement that didn’t sit right with me. While I had listened to this message on numerous occasions, it really bothered me this time. Perhaps it was the tone with which the announcement was delivered. My perception was that it was conveyed with a hint of blame and finger-pointing. It implied that if someone in our group of passengers didn’t act then, it was our fault that we would be sitting there all day.

It quickly became apparent that their policy of overbooking flights had become our problem. Because the airline decided to overbook the flight, we were not going to board the plane until one of the passengers changed his or her plans. It caused me to wonder what would really have happened if no one had been in a position to change flight plans that day. Would we really have sat there all day? Would the airline have made any other attempts to resolve the issue (besides enticing customers with free future air travel)?

Now, I’ve never worked with the airlines. And I do not feel that I am informed enough to know whether overbooking in the airline industry is a good thing or not. But the concept of “ease of doing business” kept jumping into my mind for the duration of that flight. I was thinking about the organizations I have worked with over the years. Many have worked hard to create ease-of-doing-business (EODB) processes. Some have even made ease of doing business a strategic initiative as part of their organizational planning efforts.

Despite the emphasis on EODB, I have witnessed employees (at all levels in organizations) forget that they are in business to serve the customer or client (not the other way around). They implement policies or processes that meet their own internal needs and do not take into account the needs of the customer.

The concept of EODB is often talked about at the global level. The World Bank has created an index that examines a variety of indicators to rank how easy a country is to do business with (e.g., regulations, contracting, and taxes). As consumers of services and goods, we experience the notion of ease of doing business on a regular basis. We encounter it when we interact with an organization and find ourselves saying, “That doesn’t make sense” or “Why do we have to jump through all these hoops?”

The goal of the policy or process is often quite worthy – to help the organization become more efficient or to streamline processes in order to save money and time. But the outcome is often less than desirable. In addition, while many organizations recognize the need to pay attention to EODB as it relates to external customers, many fall short when creating an EODB philosophy as it applies to internal customers.



Internal support departments (e.g., HR, IT, finance) may implement policies and procedures that seem like the right thing to do but make it harder for internal customers to do business with them. I’m not talking about enforcing a regulation or executing a safety standard. I’m referring to the implementation of a process from too narrow of a perspective (i.e., it benefits us) without thinking about the impact on the internal customer, other departments, or the organization as a whole.

So if ease of doing business is important to your organization (or your department or team), some ideas to consider include:

  1. Establish “ease of doing business” as an organizational priority. If it isn’t a strategic initiative, make it a priority for your department or team. This not only pertains to those departments that work with external customers, but also to those internal support departments that are critical to overall organizational operations.
  1. Regularly examine your policies and processes. What’s working? What isn’t? By analyzing your current systems, you can explore where improvement is needed.
  1. Seek out and collect input regarding your policies and processes. Create a mechanism to solicit input on a regular basis. Avoid defending the feedback you receive, but seek to understand what it is telling you.
  1. When changing policies or processes, run them through an EODB filter. Ask the following:
  • Why is this change being made?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • Who benefits from the change? How?
  • What are the compelling reasons for moving this forward? What is the business case?
  • What other data could/should be collected to further reinforce this rationale?
  • How does this change benefit the internal/external customer?
  • What, if anything, can we do to implement the change in a way that makes it easier for the customer to do business with us?
  • How does this change affect other stakeholders?
  • What might be some unintended consequences?
  1. Plan for communication. When changing policies or processes, consider the best way to communicate to the internal/external customer. Communicate often and vary the methods of communication.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.