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10 Signs Bureaucracy is Killing Your Company and What to Do About It

Bureaucracy - The Slow Death

Highly bureaucratic businesses are typically rigid due to their fanatical enforcement of organizational hierarchy. Bureaucracy grows slowly over time and usually goes unnoticed. Like the frog left in a pot while the heat is gradually turned up, until the frog boils to death… The longer we’ve been in the bureaucratic environment, the less likely we are to realize the full impact that it’s having to the overall organization.

10 Signs Bureaucracy is Killing Your Company

  1. Requiring rules that benefit one department at the expense of others.
  2. Controlling the access to information to the point that it interferes with peoples’ ability to do their jobs efficiently.
  3. Denies people the ability to make decisions for themselves.
  4. Overloading employees with so much work there is no time to do any job well.
  5. Prevents people from gaining additional knowledge or skills.
  6. Failing to support employees, despite their best efforts, when things go wrong.
  7. Disempowering employees while still holding them accountable for results.
  8. Blaming employees when things go wrong; but taking all the credit when things go well.
  9. Managers who tightly control every little thing within their range of authority both inside their department and between departments.
  10. Empire building through taking over employees, information, budgets, decision rights, or any other resource from other departments.

10 Things You Can Do to Empower People and Minimize Bureaucracy

  1. Provide employees, especially new hires that have a fresh perspective, with a way to anonymously report issues that arise from bureaucratic burdens.
  2. Ask employees to submit suggestions to a “Kill the Stupid Rule” committee and make sure action is taken or reasons for not taking action are disclosed to ensure future participation.
  3. Hold keepers of information accountable for ensuring that people who need information have it when they need it.
  4. Provide people with guidelines or simple rules for decision making. When poor choices are made, ensure the situation is evaluated and everyone learns what went wrong and what should be done in similar situations going forward.
  5. Give people sufficient time to go above and beyond minimum requirements and do their best work. Enable people to be top performers.
  6. Provide people with opportunities to participate in skill building and educational efforts that support their interests and benefit the organization.
  7. The most respected leaders accept responsibility with things go wrong and give all the credit to those who made any success possible. Modeling this behavior is essential to building trust and high performance.
  8. Trust and empower people to take risks by trying new things that help customers and otherwise support the organization’s mission by supporting them through successes and failures in order to improve.
  9. It is essential to provide employees with the resources and authority to do their jobs if you intend to hold them accountable for the results, otherwise, you will not be able to retain those employees.
  10. Managers who insist on taking over employees, information, budgets, decision rights, or any other resource from other departments must prove that doing so is more efficient, effective, saves money, improves the working conditions of employees, or provides higher customer satisfaction. If the decision is made to move forward with the changes then success metrics must be identified and before and after measurements monitored and evaluated to ensure that the change is having the intended effect.

Highly bureaucratic environments demand compliance which leads to frustration, complacency and a deadly downward spiral, in a world that is as volatile as the one we live in today. It’s an outdated mindset on a crash and burn trajectory. Turning the tide is a matter of redirecting the energy to positive and productive relationships and interactions.

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