The Busting Bureaucracy Hackathon

Working for Time, not for Productivity

By Jeremiah McCloud on March 28, 2022

I see bureaucracy in force when the focus of our work is abiding by a specific time window (730 a.m. 430 p.m.), instead of achieving specific and measureable goals in pursuit of strategic objectives. God help you if you're late, but it's okay to sit around all day with nothing to do.

Bureaucracy makes my job harder or easier by... 

The bureaucratic attitude that I experience the most is that which leads my supervisor to impose/interject himself into the decisions I make about the activities of my work section. I also see it when I am asked to provide insight for a decision, but then that decision is stalled or deferred to the next higher supervisor. Then after some time, the issue is forgotten, then remembered, then the same information is requested and the cycle begins anew.

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michele-zanini_4's picture

Hi Jeremiah, you're so right to point out that one of the problems with bureaucracy is its excessive focus on formalities at the expense of substance. Sure, it's great to have some predictability and standards in how the organization operates, but often these become ends in themselves. And as they become the routine, people stop questioning whether they really make sense...

Your other point about decision-making is also quite interesting... curious to get your thoughts on the impact this has on the organization's ability to act and make good decision (as well as on the satisfaction of the people working inside!)

thanks again



Asking why, and seeking reasonable and sensible answers to that question, is the best way for a person and for an organization to maintain a spirit of purposeful, thoughtful action. The absence of such thoughtfulness opens the door to (and even necessitates) the bureaucratic grind.

On decision-making:
As for the satisfaction of the workers inside the organization, I suppose it depends on whether or not each worker is more interested in making/supporting sensible decisions that best enable the organization to accomplish its central purpose...OR...more interested in simply accomplishing their tasks as part of the larger collection of task-doers, with little thought to how each and every action adds value or wastes effort towards the central purpose.

The same concept could and should be applied to decision-making as an effort and as a function of position. Are decision-makers slapping the table on things that are significantly beneficial to the organization's bottom line? Or are they just deciding on things that neither add significant value nor detract significantly from the central purpose? If it is the former, then such decision stalls that I've seen should largely disappear, as the decision-makers' penchant for action towards the organization's central, driving purpose would impel more efficient use of time and mental resources. If it is the latter, then we could expect to see something akin to the United States Congress: lots of discussion, but no real significance to reality.