The Busting Bureaucracy Hackathon

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A Matter of Culture

By Terry Bennett on April 5, 2014

In order to be successful, companies need to become much quicker and more nimble. Bureaucracy is seen at every level of an organization and is an obvious impediment to speed & agility. Bureaucracy also stifles innovation. While there are processes within a company that rely upon standardization for speed, there also must be an opportunity for experimentation with those processes. Bureaucracy is at least one of the causes of employee disengagement.

It seems, though, that there is a difference in bureaucracy & hierarchy. A company can have an organizational hierarchy without necessarily being bureaucratic. Look at self-directed/self-managed teams. Bureaucracy today seems to flow from a manager with a lack of trust in staff, a thirst for control, and sometimes a thought process that "I'm in this position because I'm smarter than those who are not" or perhaps more politely "I have a lot of experience & understand what to do". It would seem at times to also involve an element of fear of mistakes.

Bureaucracy makes my job harder or easier by... 

Bureaucracy is a matter of culture. Dispelling or embracing bureaucracy is an individual manager's choice...but there can (& likely will) be requirements of the position that cause an individual manager to be more bureaucratic than desired. Those requirements might come from outside (as in government regulation) or inside (as in someone higher in the organization). Let's also realize that there is inertia in the current bureaucratic culture that helps to keep it going. And there are generations of managers who have never known anything different.

To overcome bureaucracy, we must change culture. Technology can help.

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