Bureaucracy has a bad name

In a recent survey for identifying company problems, some managers told us stories like these:

  • Six months ago we applied for a government subsidy for new machinery, but the answer never came. We are still waiting.
  • By the time my bank loan application gets approved, the opportunity will be gone.
  • We prefer to do whatever we can and rely on our own resources even when there are subsidies and other aids for which we can apply.
  • Bureaucracy whether external or internal kills business initiatives.

Questions to ponder about

If it’s so bad, why then do we let it happen and why do we tolerate it?
Is it really needed, does it exist for a purpose?

We looked into the matter and tried to identify circumstances that give rise to bureaucracy:

  • Mistrust in the organization
  • Fraudulent behavior
  • Not owning the failure we caused
  • Shifting responsibility for things that gone astray
  • The need to go back and examine things

Its costs are high

Bureaucracy costs, destroys the climate, slows down processes and kills enthusiasm. Bureaucracy is not easily rooted out and has the power to kill business initiatives.

It is a left brain work that burdens that part of the brain even further. Its real cost, however, is on the right brain which it chains to a halt destroying its potency for creativity and innovation.


Bureaucracy when on the rampage is a malice that urgently needs medication. Its treatment calls for us to develop antidotes by which to fight it.

Things are not easy. We must use our ingenuity for developing the antidotes.

What if we could have the right individual employee? If we could form the right group and the right company culture? If we could have the right leaders? If the bigness and complexity of Governments and big enterprises did not create a fertile field for its need?

Seek the answers and measures and do not permit them to remain as a wish list.

Measures to fight bureaucracy

  • As a leader set the example
  • Run anti-bureaucracy training programs
  • Develop
    • For individuals, the right principles and behavior
    • For organizations, the right culture
    • For leaders, the traits and purposes of great leadership
  • Teach your people to assume responsibility for wrongs; to learn from failures. Replace punishing by coaching to improvement
  • Identify and get rid of unnecessary rules:
    • Rules made to safeguard against the 1% probability of things going wrong and when even then the error could be easily corrected with unimportant implications
    • Rules that were made for things of value in the past but that now new developments have made them without any significance
    • Rules that served to safeguard a person against being held responsible even for minor things because of a prevailing climate of fear and punishment

Results to expect

We won’t expect to eradicate bureaucracy altogether but to lessen it to the bare minimum. Some of it may be useful and going to extremes is not the answer we are after. Even for the big organizations a leaner form of it could help enormously to minimize unproductive work and free up talent and creativity.