In a great article in Bloomberg Business Week they catalogue the demise of Abercrombie and Fitch, in the cover feature called The Aging of Abercrombie and Fitch. Whilst the article shows the challenges that every company has of “staying relevant” in a rapidly changing world there was a very interesting insight into the unnecessary level of detail that the CEO Jefferies demanded of his private jet staff. This came to light when Michael Bustin, a pilot who flew the Abercrombie plane, filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the company in 2010. The complaint included a 40-page “Aircraft Standards” manual.
As Bustin put it in his deposition, “Every single aspect that you can imagine that affected the airplane or our behavior in it was controlled by Abercrombie & Fitch, specifically, Michael Jeffries and Matthew Smith.” The four male crew members (models provided to Abercrombie) had to wear jeans, boxers, polo shirts, and flip-flops. The manual specified the seating arrangements for Jeffries’s three dogs, the length of the spoon Smith required for his tea, and the proper way to respond to requests (“No problem”), fold washcloths, vacuum, dust, and present magazines.”
So, whilst most companies have too little process, too much process can also be damaging.