The Busting Bureaucracy Hackathon

Phase 3: Ideas for Busting Bureaucracy (Part 1)
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A short guide to developing “mini hacks” to bust bureaucracy

By Michele Zanini on June 24, 2014

As we move into Phase 3 and focus on our first “hacking” sprint of the hackathon, we wanted to provide some background that should help you prepare for the most exciting and creative stages of our effort.

As we move into Phase 3 and focus on our first “hacking” sprint of the hackathon, we wanted to provide some background that should help you prepare for the most exciting and creative stages of our effort.

WHAT IS A MANAGEMENT HACK AND WHAT IS A MINI HACK?

Management hacks are bold new ideas for changing the way an organization is managed (e.g., the way it sets direction, allocates resources, evaluates people, measures and managers performance).  The best hacks create radical-yet-practical fixes to that help us overcome the costs of bureaucracy we identified in Phase 1.

By way of example, here is a popular management hack shared on the MIX by SEMCO’s Ricardo Semler: Retire-a-Little.

One of the primary objectives of this hackathon is to jointly develop a number of hacks that, with the help of technology, enable post-bureaucratic management practices. As a first step in the process, during Phase 3 we are focusing on developing what we call “mini hacks”—early-stage ideas from which we’ll select the most promising to develop further. 

HOW DO I CREATE A MINI HACK?

For a mini hack, we’re looking for no more than a few paragraphs that lay out the essence of your idea and its practical impact. You don’t need to worry if your idea is not entirely “baked” yet because you’ll have a chance to develop it further in subsequent stages of the hackathon. For now, the important thing is to get your solution out there, where others can comment and build upon it.

We’ve highlighted a number of promising mini-hacks already contributed by fellow hackathon participants to give you a better sense for what we’re looking for.

WHAT SPECIFIC PROBLEMS ARE WE “HACKING?” 

During Phase 2, we unearthed 8 key attributes of post-bureaucratic organizations (you can read more about each category here).

  1. Serve peers and customers-not the boss
  2. Break up monolithic structures
  3. Give everyone a place at the table
  4. Radically expand the scope of employee autonomy
  5. Create meritocracies
  6. Provide open access to real-time information
  7. Drive performance through a shared sense of purpose and community
  8. Ditch formality

During Phase 3, we’re asking you to share your mini-hacks that might bring these new management practices to life in our organizations.

TIPS

A few other questions you should ask yourself as you brainstorm mini hacks:

  1. Is my hack “deep”—that is, does it overcome a key problem generated by bureaucracy?
  2. Is my hack bold—does it offer a clever and unconventional approach compared to existing practices or processes?
  3. Is my hack specific—are the key elements of the solution clearly outlined, even if at a high level?
  4. Is my hack doable—can you see how this hack could be prototyped or experimented with in your organization without requiring a big budget or CEO approval?

THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY

We believe that technology can play a critical role in busting bureaucracy, and we therefore encourage you to think explicitly about how different types of technologies that could be leveraged as part of your solutions, including:

  • Social technologies, such as blogs/microblogs, social networks, crowdsourcing, folksonomies, opinion markets, wikis, and mash-ups.  These technologies offer unprecedented potential to link a diverse group of people together for joint problem-solving, or to broadly syndicate work and responsibilities across the organization.  For instance, could you imagine an “open source” resource allocation process (whether for IT or the entire enterprise), where at key junctures every person gets to contribute, irrespective of tenure or title?
  • Big data, in terms of the use of advanced analytics and computational power to drive deeper insights, investigations and experimentation around organizational decisions and actions.  Big data analytics have the potential to provide new levels of transparency and visibility to the connections within our organization.  What role could that transparency play in creating a level playing field for investments, strategic and operational decision making?  Could it put more power in the hands of front-line associates?  How could the availability of information that goes beyond the transaction create a less bureaucratic organization?
  • Mobile is all the rage now as people think about what is possible by putting people, information, location, context and capability together.  While having a smartphone or iPad is cool, how can mobile technology increase coordination and manage complexity across an organization? Right now coordination and complexity are managed through monolithic management and organizational silos.  How might mobility address these barriers?  What types of management changes are required to get full value from mobile technologies?  How does mobility combine with other technologies to create a less bureaucratic organization?
  • Cloud technologies provide a means to quickly provision and scale computing and storage capabilities.  The cloud can provide a platform for massive business experimentation, micro projects and the like that drive innovation.  Presently provisioning within IT is tightly controlled via governance processes, controls, etc.  How could giving everyone in the organization potential access to more computing power overcome the costs of bureaucracy?  How might increasing experimentation, supported by the cloud, drive more innovation and enhance adaptability?
  • OTHER TECHNOLOGIES and TOOLS.  Could organizations become less bureaucratic by applying IT tools/methodologies/ project structures to the rest of the organization?   What have you learned in leading your organization that needs to be adopted by the entire organization? For example, how about having teams outside of IT adopt Agile methods, or how much bureaucracy could be eliminated if the entire company worked via scrum?

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE DEVELOP MINI HACKS?

After this Phase ends on July 14, we’ll spend some time coalescing around the most promising mini hacks. These will then be further fleshed out collaboratively—with your peers and with direct input from the hackathon coaches and us.

The most compelling hacks will earn the chance to be featured at the MIX Mashup and Dell World in November 2014, and on the MIX, Dell, and partner sites (e.g., Fortune.com).

We look forward to seeing your ideas. Happy hacking!

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