Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bureaucracy Gone Awry

My lovely wife just brought in the mail and showed me a amazing example of stupidity in banking. She had a check from our bank for $15. Apparently, we accidentally overpaid to our overdraft line of credit on our checking account. The line of credit is directly linked to our checking account. There is no chance that the bank couldn't figure out where to move the money if they really needed to clear out the line of credit.

We are very big users of electronic banking. I can't recall the last time I wrote a check. It's a huge convenience and a minor savings in paper, envelopes and stamps. The bank, though, spent the money to cut a check and send it to us in the mail.

There has to be a leader in the bank who recognizes the folly of this. First, it's hard to imagine that the penalty for not addressing the balance in the line of credit would be greater than the cost of mailing us a check. Second, if they had to clear the account, it certainly would be better for them to just move the money to our checking account with a notice in our next statement.

While there may be many such leaders in the bank, I bet they are stymied by bureaucracy gone awry. This effect recently has become much worse thanks to US Senator Sarbanes and Representative Oxley.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, while well intentioned, has become the leash used by overzealous bureaucrats to restrain what they see as the out of control innovations in their companies. I know of one company that put in place an accounting process to track the granting of $100 recognition awards by managers. The new process costs more than the award and requires interaction by three people in addition to the manager and the recipient.

I've started taking the lead resisting this trend by pointing out such over-bureaucracy where I see it. Perhaps if enough of us do this, we can reverse this trend. Hopefully someone in my bank will read this.

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