If you had lived your entire life in a land where peas and potatoes were the only vegetables, you’d have a hard time imagining avocados and artichokes. Likewise, when every organization you’ve ever come across is bureaucratic at its core, it’s hard to imagine a large-scale institution that is resolutely non-bureaucratic.
If you had lived your entire life in a land where peas and potatoes were the only vegetables, you’d have a hard time imagining avocados and artichokes. Likewise, when every organization you’ve ever come across is bureaucratic at its core, it’s hard to imagine a large-scale institution that is resolutely non-bureaucratic. So it’s understandable that most of us would assume bureaucracy is inevitable—understandable, but not acceptable. We have to raise our aspirations. We have to commit ourselves to building organizations that are big and nimble, disciplined and empowering, focused and opportunistic, coordinated and decentralized.
Here’s the good news: when you take time to look, you’ll find there are alternatives to our tradition-encrusted management model. (You can find a lot of them at www.managementexchange.com). Lift the covers on these “positive deviants,” and you’ll find that “difficult to imagine” doesn’t mean “impossible to build.” You’ll also discover that IT is critical to creating organizations where …
- Every associate has a holographic picture of the business and its performance—a pre-requisite for getting everyone to think and behave like a business owner.
- Associates get real-time feedback on their performance from customers and peers, which enables self-management instead of manager-management.
- Control is achieved through shared objectives and transparency, rather than through air-tight rules and oversight.
- Complex coordination problems are solved peer-to-peer, rather than through top-down mandates; where people have all the information they need to recognize their shared interests, and the collaborative platforms they need to co-create win-win solutions.
- There are no gatekeepers and no “channels” to go through since individuals can easily find and connect with virtually anyone who has relevant expertise and experience.
- Boundary-spanning “communities of passion” spontaneously self-assemble around promising initiatives with little need for top-down direction.
- Tough business challenges get crowd-sourced to the entire organization.
- Ideas of all sorts compete on their merits in an open marketplace.
- First-level associates are able to model the implications of their decisions on virtually every aspect of business performance and have wide latitude in making operational trade-offs.
- The “collective wisdom” of the entire organization gets harnessed in making “executive” decisions around strategic direction, resource allocation and key appointments.
- Hundreds or thousands of associates come together to define their shared values and develop ways of embedding those values in systems and processes.
- Every change program is “socially constructed” and ripples out, rather than cascading down.
- Everyone gets to see the “big picture” as trends and developments around the world get tagged and shared across the enterprise.
- Relevant information from all informed sources, internal and external, gets integrated into peer-based compensation decisions.
- Leadership rank is the product of peer-based assessments and objective measures of competence and contribution rather than the product of title or position.
Many of these features of the post-bureaucratic organization are already visible in the world’s most progressive organizations. Truth is, you no longer have to be a starry-eyed dreamer to imagine a world filled with organizations that are unencumbered by bureaucratic drag.
Visit Phase 2 of the Beyond Bureaurcracy Hackathon to contribute your own attributes to the conversation.