Busting BureaucracyBureaucratic organization: eight major characteristics


The Eight Major Characteristics of the Bureaucratic Organization

There are eight major characteristics of what is called the "bureaucratic form." Your organization likely uses most of these. Virtually all organizations that use the bureaucratic form seem to suffer the same suffocating and immobilizing symptoms that people call "bureaucracy." The characteristics of the bureaucratic organization are:

1. Most employees blame their organization’s "bureaucracy" on senior management. They assume that management must want it, or it wouldn’t be tolerated.

2. Senior managers don’t want or like "bureaucracy" any more than the rest of the employees. The detestable effects of bureaucracy victimize everyone, regardless of level. Senior managers haven’t known what to do to get rid of it. Executives have tried many things to eliminate "bureaucracy," but the "program-of-the-year" approach generally hasn’t worked, because they have been fighting symptoms, not the root cause.

3. The root cause of "bureaucracy" is the organizing model, the "bureaucratic form." Yet, the bureaucratic form is so pervasive that its destructive nature is seldom questioned.

4. If you were starting a new enterprise today, you could avoid "bureaucracy" by using a new organizing model called the "mission-driven" model.

5. Existing bureaucratic organizations can reduce the amount of "bureaucracy" by changing one or more of the basic organizing principles, either temporarily or permanently. The steps for de-bureaucratizing by changing basic organizing principles are:

a. Make an assessment of the present state of the organization to learn how much permission to change and commitment to change is available from stakeholders and senior management.

b. Depending on the amount of available commitment, choose the optimal goal state: a modest goal, a moderate goal, or an ambitious goal.

c. The goal state will suggest the strategy for changing the organization. The strategy will range from a minimum effort based mostly on training to a maximum effort based on reorganization and a new way of managing called "continuous improvement."

d. Continuous improvement is an entirely new way of operating in which the people closest to the product or customer, working in teams, are empowered to continuously improve the organization’s quality, service, or both. Continuous improvement requires three things:

i. A "shadow" organization chartered to make the changes necessary in the existing organization to achieve the desired goal state.

ii. New forms of qualitative customer feedback from internal and external customers to be used to drive changes in quality, service, or both.

iii. Training for employees enabling them to work in teams, to accept the offered empowerment, to identify and prioritize root causes of problems, and to find solutions they will use to continuously improve quality, service, or both.

6. Management people in the existing organization will need to learn and use new ways of managing. They will need to learn what they have been doing that adds to the "bureaucracy" in the organization. They will need to learn new ways of doing their jobs that diminish the amount of bureaucracy within the organization. Most importantly, they will need to provide empowerment for those who work for them, and protection and coaching to those who accept and act upon the offered empowerment.

7. People in the organization who currently aren’t managing will play a vital new role in the de-bureaucratized organization. The labor/management war, if it exists in your organization, must end. Everyone in the organization will need to act as one unified team, driven by a common mission, and aligned by a common vision of the new organization. People who today are not formally managing will be grouped into teams in which the brainpower, skills, talents, and experience of the individuals will be harnessed to continuously improve the organization’s quality, service, or both.

People who are presently not in managerial positions will be drawn to enroll in the change effort because their new, expanded role offers less bureaucracy and more opportunity for motivation through personal growth, achievement, responsibility, recognition and more interesting work.

8. Finally, the vision of what your organization might look like, and be like, when you have achieved your desired goal state is outlined in detail in "Busting Bureaucracy." You will discover the rewards that come from working in an organization of empowered people who are satisfying or even dazzling their customers, and are doing so with few, if any, of the immobilizing and suffocating effects of bureaucracy.

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