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Do Organizations Need Bureaucracy In The 21st Century?

Updated on February 20, 2012

What is Bureacracy?

Merriam Webster defines bureaucracy as:

"A system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives; a state or organization governed or managed according to such a system."

Times have surely changed. Or have they?

I currently struggle with the purpose, rationale and common sense of having a bureacratic system always in play.

I ask myself, as I work through the daily grind in the world of work whether what I do for a living is truly the way I should be working.

Is the layers of rubber stamps and flow of paper work in a "green" society a complete and utter oxymoron when my smartphone can schedule my life for me, yet at work I need ten signatures, two pints of blood and my first born to make a decision, execute a plan or change a policy.

Is Bureaucracy A Bad Idea?

We all have experienced bureaucracy and some of us work every day in one or with one. Some of us may even run our finances and other personal issues like one. Are you making progress? Is it working? Is it efficient?

I am not saying that it is inherently a bad thing, but it is not the right structure, in my eyes, for today's world.

Why Do Bureaucracies Exist?

Way back during the days of the feudal system jobs were supplied for those with personal connections. One can argue that modern day bureaucracies still do that and that is true in many organizations although they will tell you otherwise. I know of many that use that as an excuse for debilitating nepotism--but that is a whole other article to write about.

Bureaucracy became the norm in order to implement rules and processes to improve the horrible conditions of the feudal system all based on who you knew (not that different from today, huh?) Therefore, at that point in time, in that century, bureaucracy was deemed a much better system than fiefdom. As a result bureaucracy became the standard. It was a good idea--back then.

The World Changed

Welcome the internet, social media, smartphones, tablets and iPads and the world is no longer the same world where bureaucracy can thrive in.

Why did the world change with all this? Because we shifted from this local competive world to a global competitive world where instant information to customers inundates their existence and influences their purchasing power. As a result, the power went from the seller to the buyer and bureaucracy was not good enough in this newly designed world.

Bureaucracy begins to do more harm than good. Time for real change.

Where Are The Real Leaders?

Corporate Leaders: Competent?

We all know the damage that our economy has endured for years now. We all know, see, hear and read how corporate leaders have been rewarded for incompetency and basically running organizations into the ground due to greed and their bureaucratic ways, but it is time that this changes.

When companies are run into the ground, families, economies and lives are run into the ground. As a result, we all suffer. They must be accountable and bureaucratic management is NOT the answer anymore.

Middle management, unfortunately finds themselves caught between doing the right thing for the task at hand, but falling short when attempting it due to the ever so inappropriate organizational bureaucratic rules in place. These managers are not incompetent per se, but are seen and considered POWERLESS. And when you lack power, nothing changes.


What Would You Do To Make Organizations Less Bureaucratic?

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Allow Us To Manage Differently!

Organizations like Apple, Amazon, Sales Force and Intuit, to name a few, are innovative organizations that do believe and implement radical management styles. I agree with this. Why? Because you can not implement new ideas with the same old rules. Like they say, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

Change is constant. People have purchasing power every nanosecond of the day with their smartphones, computers and tablets. Therefore, why not engage your workforce to tap into that power with innovative training, employee incentive programs that results in exemplary customer service, extensive job satisfaction and massive financial gains--a win-win for all.

The way we are working is not working anymore.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Highly hierarchical bureaucracies, in this day and age, is just not the way to expand change, productivity and increase job satisfaction. In fact, studies show that only one in five of every worker is fully engaged in his or her work.

It saddens and dispirits me to see people heading into work every day hanging up their personal identities, personalities and moral and ethical beliefs for a system that only allows you to survive, but not thrive. Organizations that thrive in this new world of work will be those that allow and agree that the game has changed and that bad politics and bureaucratic inefficiency only creates average products and services. America was not built on average.

Bureaucracy can not thrive in a new world like the one we are living in now. It does not make anyone happy, in my eyes, it only decreases morale and creates mediocrity and conformity. Is it bad, not necessarily? Does it do any good, perhaps? Does it keep order? Or disorder? Does it keep jobs? Or does it make jobs obsolete? It just does not fit in today's world.

We have seen what bureaucratic management breeds: massive damage to the economy. Is that what we need moving into the future? Can our so-called leaders acquire this newly created competency to thrive in this day and age of instant communication through various social mediums?

Let us work together to reinvent our bureaucratic monoliths into today's newly structured efficient, technologically and creatively advanced, savvy organizations that allow us to contribute our skills and creativity freely.

How can you make your business, places of employment and governments less bureaucratic? Are you willing, ready and able to be radical in your thinking?

Let us start today. Tomorrow is upon us.


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    • NonCopyBook profile image

      Nicholas Daly 3 years ago from NSW Australia

      "Yes".. Haha. Or no. This is why I am now an ex govt employee. Lots of benefits and some enjoyable times, but for fear of under-staffing etc they over-prepare for everything, papers (and yes they are papers) move in circles upon circles and the advice to CEOs and govt Ministers are often all but ignored anyway.. "Yes Minister" is a representation of the truth.. I don't know how it is in the private sector..?