Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slooow bureaucracy

The beginning of the wikipedia page on Bureaucracy reads as follows:

Bureaucracy is the structure and set of regulations in place to control activity, usually in large organizations and government. As opposed to adhocracy, it is represented by standardized procedure (rule-following) that dictates the execution of most or all processes within the body, formal division of powers, hierarchy, and relationships.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of bureaucracy includes:
3: a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation

Another characteristic I regularly observe within bureaucracies is behaviour driven by aversion to (perceived) risk. One example is the tendency to make sure you don't do anything too different to everyone else. Another is the inability to take initiative and make decisions, resulting in missed opportunities.

One outcome of all this, is that the bureaucratic organisation moves at glacial speed in terms of fulfilling its actual purpose, especially when something that doesn't match its current processes is involved.

All the large Australian organisations (and most smaller ones) I have worked with are bureaucratic. Occasionally you find small pockets of people that are different. Overall though, it is pretty frustrating if you enjoy actually getting stuff done and trying to do it well!


Daniel Alexiuc said...

Adhocracy - that's an interesting word, I've never heard that before. It perfectly describes a dot-com startup "" I saw in a documentary last night.

Brad Clow said...

I'd never heard of it either. According to the dictionary on my mac, the definition is:

a flexible, adaptable, and informal organizational structure without bureaucratic policies or procedures.