ⓘ Instruction creep

Instruction creep

ⓘ Instruction creep

Instruction creep occurs when instructions increase in number and size over time until they are unmanageable. It can be insidious and damaging to the success of large groups such as corporations, originating from ignorance of the KISS principle and resulting in over-complex procedures that are often misunderstood, followed with great irritation, or ignored.

Instruction creep is common in complex organizations, where rules and guidelines are created by changing groups of people over extended periods of time. The constant state of flux in such groups often leads them to add or modify instructions, rather than simplifying or consolidating existing ones. This can result in considerable overlap in the message of directives, at the expense of clarity, efficiency, and communication, or even of consistency.

The fundamental fallacy of instruction creep is believing that people read instructions with the same level of attention and comprehension, regardless of the volume or complexity of those instructions. A byproduct is the advent of many new rules having the deliberate intent to control others via fiat, without considering consensus or collaboration. This tends to antagonize others, even when it appears to the instigators that they are acting with proper intent.