Management expert Gary Hamel says it is time we kill the bureaucracy. He recommends a new approach called Management 2.0 where people move from guardians and gatekeepers to joiners and enablers.
Some of us work in suffocating bureaucracies of multiple management layers. It is difficult to get our high level bosses to listen to us because they are too busy managing other managers.
Due to these multiple layers of management, our ideas and suggestion have to run a gauntlet of multiple decision making levels which stymie innovation and creativity.
Bureaucracies concentrate power in senior executives who suffer from functional fixedness bias. This type of bias limits the use of something only in the way it is traditionally used. You probably have heard this bias expressed in the phrase, “That is not the way we do things around here.”
Bureaucracies tend to award political savvy. As a result, those who know how to play the game are often promoted over those who are more capable. Style over substance rules the day in these kinds of organizations.
Bureaucracies create power structures and relationships that discourage dissent. People are often afraid to speak up in this type of work environment particularly if it involves bad news. The emperor has no clothes in a bureaucracy.
Bureaucracies force their members to look at the wrong scoreboard. Since they know that promotions, career advancement and ideas are based on political advantage, employees embrace a “look after number 1” mindset. Colleagues end up competing against each other as teamwork, collaboration, and coordination fall by the wayside.
Bureaucracies overvalue experience and undervalue unconventional thinking from newcomers and external sources. Self-preservation takes over in bureaucracies by creating blind spots that miss opportunities for improvement.
Bureaucracies generate overly safe environments that reduce risk taking. According to leadership consultant Margie Warrell, bureaucratic workplaces do 4 things regarding risk: (1) Over estimate the probability of risk failure; (2) Exaggerate the consequences of that failure; (3) Under estimate the ability of employees to handle risk; and (4) Down play the cost of not taking risks.
Bureaucracies centralize decision making and force compliance with obscure rules and procedures. This reinforces an obsession with policies, programs and systems that focus on past performance rather than adaptability and flexibility fashioned by an evolving workplace.
You may say why reform bureaucracies and bite the hand that feeds us. Remember we are what we eat. So let’s kill the bureaucracy before its toxic menu eventually kills us.