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Challenging the rules

December 16, 2011

How long does it take to register a company? The answer – and the process and costs involved – varies dramatically depending on where you are. In New Zeland, for example, it is typically one day and costs under $200 (US). In Congo, on the other hand, you would be facing an average wait of 65 days, 10 discreet process steps and a cost of more than 5 times average income.

The World Bank Report on ‘Doing Business in 2012’ offers invaluable insights into the relative complexity of operating in different countries around the world. It makes interesting reading in its own right; but it should also cause each of us to reflect on the rules under which we operate and what impact they may be having on our competitiveness.

In Congo – or many of the other relatively bureaucratic countries highlighted in the report – I am sure people complain about ‘red tape’ and the difficulty of getting things done. But in the end, tehy accept the rules, or find ways to work around them. And of course, the same happens in business. We become accustomed to the rules and the processes, we assume they are normal, and we make little effort to either understand their impact or to change them.

Even when we observe high levels of non-compliance, or realise that staff in other groups try to avoid us, we don’t necessarily react by asking ‘How can we do this better or differently?’ Our natural reaction tends to be ‘How can we enforce compliance?’

So as we enter a new year, and a year in which increased competitiveness and efficiency will be crucial to survival for many. it is time to think about the activities we perform and whether they can be changed, accelerated or eliminated. Where do we spend time? What do we wish was different? How would our internal clients like things to be done? How is our competition managing similar activities?

IACCM has recently launched a program which encourages and recognizes ‘agents of change’. It has been developed in conjunction with the Aalto Business School in Finland and provides a forum to share ideas and to promote new thinking. It can be accessed at



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