Creating Effective Rules Through Green Tape (When to Write a Rule…
Creating Effective Rules Through Green Tape
Reconceptualizing Rule Effectiveness
Thus rule effectiveness needs to be thought of more broadly: as achieving
organizational purposes but also as a vehicle for eliciting voluntary cooperation
through interactions between the individual and organization
people are not
passive recipients of organization structure; rather, they are active participants
in creating the realities around it.
rules are eff ective to the
extent that they accomplish what public organizations intend
Organizational purposes must be front and center in conceptualizing eff ective
voluntary cooperation of
those expected to follow, enforce, and explain organizational rules.
effective rules must be defined by
the extent to which they elicit voluntary rather than coerced behavior.
These interactions between people and with the organization spark the level of
cooperation with a rule likely to be achieved, as well as the sheer capacity of the
organization to achieve the purpose of the rule and beyond.
When to Write a Rule
Problems alone are not enough to prompt this manager to write a rule;
it is problems that involve multiple people and for which solutions have been
rules are likely to be
written when problems are ‘“fairly recurrent, consequential, or salient"
two conditions for
effective rule- writing: significant organizational problems with reasonably clear
Reasonably certain solutions are the second condition for eff ective rulewriting
need to express a common- sense relationship between rule requirements
also depends on the clarity of organizational goals
and the availability of technical knowledge for problem- solving
When organizational goals are murky and
technical knowledge is limited, Rainey argues, other forms of decision- making
will emerge, including “bargaining and political maneuvering and more intuitive,
judgmental decision making.”
unwritten rules are well- suited for unimportant problems and unclear
solution sets. Another possibility is that unwritten rules are more desirable when
managers seek flexibility for solving problems.
organizational rules will work better if employees are involved in rule design.
A second justification for stakeholder involvement in rule design is to close
the design- implementation gap that is created when rule- designers and rulefollowers
are two separate groups of people.
solicit the input of people most
affected by the rule, whether those people are employees, businesses, or citizens.
Without such input, public managers will be crafting rules in a vacuum and without
a full understanding of what rules will mean or how they will affect the people
or the situation.
A third rationale for stakeholder involvement in rule design is the potential for
greater compliance from rule- followers
Stakeholder involvement in rule design also strengthens the relationship
between managers and employees.
not every rule stakeholder will want to participate in rule design
creating the “oligarchy
of the interested” by soliciting volunteers among employees interested in
This approach is promising but risks “garbage- can” decisions,
whose quality depends on who shows up and which axe they are grinding
Another approach is to select stakeholders with power,
legitimacy, and an immediate stake in the game
Achieving effective rules requires actively incorporating the
experiences, understandings, and beliefs of those whose cooperation is required
Green Tape: Attributes of Effective Rule Design and Implementation
also be paid to the nuts and bolts of effective rules, referred to here as “green tape.
Green tape is a grounded theory of eff ective organizational rules based on
the lived experiences of public employees and their encounters with rules
effective rules—ones people will follow—possess
both technical and social components
A well- designed rule with no followers
is as ineffective as a poorly designed rule faithfully followed by all: both fail the
rules that are designed to achieve specific organizational purposes
(the technical components) involve interactions between individuals and organizations
that elicit more or less voluntary cooperation (the social components).
Green Tape Attributes
The rationality of any organizational activity can be evaluated as to whether there is a logical connection between the activity’s design and its purpose.
Flawed behavioral forecasts—erroneous predictions about human responses to rule requirements—are identifi ed as a key contributor to red tape
Consistent Rule Application
Consistency is not about rule rigidity, but rather avoiding systematically exempting specific people or groups from the rules intended to cover them. Occasional rule exemptions are part and parcel of managerial discretion. But frequent and patterned rule inconsistency undercuts organizational purposes, alters individual perceptions, and triggers uncooperative rule behaviors.
consistency serves the rationality function
of rules by rendering behavior predictable and coordinated in the pursuit of organizational goals. From this perspective, rules
are akin to a vaccination that is only as good as the spatial coverage of the population that receives it.
At the other end of the rule continuum lies over- control, which is a catalyst for red tape. over- control is inefficient and requires more constraint than necessary for achieving rule objectives. From the individual perspective, over- control conveys a lack of faith in the capacity of employees to act effectively, asking them
to “check their brains at the door”- lowers motivation and performance
Between the extremes of under- control and over- control lies optimal control, which green tape argues is a necessary condition for effective rules
optimal control promises effi ciency, signals sincerity
in achieving rule purposes, and tells employees and other rule followers that they are trusted enough to not be micromanaged. From the behavioral perspective,optimal control has the greatest chance of evoking rule compliance because it employees to meet the truster’s expectations by behaving in trustworthy ways
At one end of the continuum lies under- control, which imposes a level of constraint that is inadequate for achieving rule objectives. Under- control is problematic from all three perspectives of the organizational rules framework. For organizations, under- control is inefficient because it fails to achieve organizational
objectives but nevertheless consumes resources
both the process and outcome of putting rules into writing—is
expected to increase the technical and social merits of an organizational
rule. This statement will seem circular to those who believe that only written rules
can truly be considered rules. But unwritten rules commonly exist in public organizations
simply because not every organizational preference can be expressed in
the green tape framework
suggests that written rules are more effective
Secondly, having written rules legitimizes implementation and makes the rules easier to follow and enforce. Written rules correlate with more favorable attitudes toward rule compliance. Written rules are also raw material for enforcers, legitimizing authority, downplaying personal power, giving fair warning, and assigning blame to management for unpopular requirements
First, rule formalization triggers in- depth thinking about the design of the rule, to a higher degree than unwritten rules are capable of generating. As mentioned early on, the sheer act of formalization is inherently more transparent and more amenable to the input of a range of stakeholders.
Understood Rule Purposes
understanding a rule’s purpose facilitates compliance