The Ministry of Common Sense – How to eliminate bureaucratic red tape, bad excuses and corporate bullshit

The Ministry of Common Sense – How to eliminate bureaucratic red tape, bad excuses and corporate bullshit

Author: Martin Lindstrom
Review by: Jo Twiselton

How often do you ask yourself, “where’s the common sense in that?’ Maybe when you’ve followed a rule, regulation or procedure, either in the organisation you work for, or as a customer, that gets in the way, slows things down or makes no sense whatsoever? This book shows that you are definitely not alone.

For business and culture transformation expert, Martin Lindstrom, common sense is all about empathy and the two are linked throughout this insightful book. His point that we are seeing a general disappearance in empathy which is impacting common sense, supports his case that rather than using terms like B2B or B2C, we should start thinking in terms of H2H – Human to Human.

Through a series of detailed chapters, Lindstrom shows how things like irrelevant and poorly managed meetings, pointless PowerPoint decks and corporate politics side-track organisations daily. And, with a focus on shareholders, the customer often gets forgotten. The outcome? Terrible customer experiences, poor decision-making, beleaguered employees and plummeting productivity. And, as he illustrates, the pandemic has helped to amplify all this.

Time and time again, we get examples from Lindstrom of where technology, process, systems and procedures, along with compliance are prioritised ahead of empathy and common sense. This is so often justified by edicts that say that organisations need to stay compliant, safe and organised.

I found myself laughing out loud all the way through (which doesn’t happen often with a business book) mostly because so many of the examples sounded so familiar. And although it was entertaining, it made me worry at the same time.

Creating real transformation
So, how do you bring about change that puts common sense back into organisations? I have a very keen interest in how organisations can really transform (rather than attempting to change and then falling back into old habits at some point). This book offers some great insights and actionable examples that leaders can take forward to effect real change, from tips to running more human meetings, thinking about your organisation’s structure and being more transparent.

Throughout, Lindstrom brings in examples of where he’s helped activate change, in particular drawing on feedback and experiences of customers and employees. Rather than deploying a classic focus group approach for example, he makes a point of bringing together employees with customers in their homes, so employees see the world exactly as consumers see it.

After sharing many (very entertaining) examples of ‘common sense gone on holiday’ throughout the book, Lindstrom sets out a road map to help set up your own Ministry of Common Sense in your own business, in the final chapter. He shares an example of where this approach has worked successfully at London-based Standard Chartered Bank and, alongside the hints and tips peppered throughout the book, he provides guidance and a series of questions and answers that could help you change your own approach and policies.

The disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought does present a great opportunity for organisations to reset and restore common sense – and empathy. The ideas and approaches in this book could be the catalyst that organisations need to consider how they can move nearer to putting common sense – and people – front and centre and simplifying life for everyone.

At its heart, I see this well-written and easy-to-read book as a manifesto for change, to bring common sense back to business and help us work more as ‘Human to Human’.

Published by John Murray Learning

Jo Twiselton, Change Leadership Coach and founder Twist Consultants