The Difference Between Blue Tape and Red Tape

We all know red tape.  Unnecessary rules and complicated procedures that get in people’s way of getting their work done.

Some companies are masters of laying out the red tape.

On the other hand, what about blue tape?

You know blue tape.  The kind that you use when you are preparing to paint a room.

Blue tape is the start of something new.

A construction project.  Building something new.  Remodeling something existing. Producing something better than was there previously.

Blue tape represents constructive, productive activity.

So, which does your company deal in?  Red or blue tape?

Red Vs. Blue Strategies

Many companies deal in red tape.  They create barriers to getting work done.

Does your company erect obstacles?  Rules?  Restrictions that frustrate and create more work for employees.

Other companies choose to pull out the blue tape and do something new. When problems need to be solved or a new idea is needed, they empower their employees to construct new ideas and operate outside the system where needed.

I worked with a company that doubled the amount of paperwork that employees were required to complete for their expense reports.  The reason given was to reduce the workload on the back office.  Instead, they shifted the burden to the company’s entire field team.  This is a good example of a red tape strategy.

Or these two companies: Company A has just instituted an Internet Usage policy that is 30 pages long.  Company B has a one-page policy.  Which company do you think is more successful in getting their workers to be productive?

These represent Red Tape vs. Blue Tape strategies.  One is about rules and restrictions.  The other is about creative thinking and trust.  Which does your company deal in?

Red Tape Strategies:

  • Creating unnecessary paperwork for your employees
  • Placing obstacles in the way of your team doing creative work
  • Trusting rules and policies, instead of your employees
  • Reacting to problems by tightening control, instead of allowing the team to address
  • No exception policies that restrict employees from getting work done

Blue Tape Strategies:

  • Allowing your teams to build new things
  • Removing barriers to creativity
  • Providing flexibility instead of restrictions
  • Minimizing the rules and paperwork that people must adhere to
  • Reducing the obstacles to productivity
  • Getting out of the way of your employees

Always Use the Blue Tape

Too many companies only have red tape in their office supply closet.  They operate by rules, regulations, and restrictions on their employees.  They believe that they only way to get their people to work is via rules and strict control.

This only serves to get in the way of their employees work.

Other companies use the blue tape.

They let their employees build.  Construct.  Be creative.  And get work done.

They believe that getting out of the way of their employees leads to the highest levels of productivity.

Which one represents your company?

Does your company deal in red or blue tape?  What are your best examples?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.stevescottsite.com Steve Scott

    I have been working for myself for a few years, so I hope My boss only has the blue tape. But I absolutely love the analogy.

    Allowing and rewarding creativity rather than simply throwing up obstacles to “keep people in line” is an amazing idea. If I had worked for a company that worked that way rather than a clone of the movie “Office Space” I may never have struck out on my own.

    Of course that could be viewed as a bad thing…now I confused myself….lol

    anyhow absolutely wonderful analogy

  • MarkDaniel
  • MarkDaniel
  • http://staying.afloat.ca/ AndrewJ

    Your blue tape analogy is excellent. I think you could carry it further. Blue (painters tape) is meant to guide the process but not get in the way. Just protecting what is necessary but leaving the rest of the wall as a canvas. I like it!