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Bureaucracy must die!

April 25, 2014

Influential business strategist and longtime GILD faculty member Gary Hamel doesn’t pull any punches in his recent story that appears on

“The organizations that survive in the coming decades will be those that are capable of change as fast as change itself.

“Today, few organizations seem to be able to out-run change for more than a few years at a time. To build organizations that are adaptable at their core, we will need to rework every management process so it enables, rather than frustrates, breakthrough thinking and relentless experimentation. Innovation will need to become instinctual and intrinsic. The notion of the economically dependent, easily biddable ‘employee’ will have to be ditched.

“The goal: a workplace where initiative, creativity, and passion flourish, and where the line separating vocation and avocation disappear.

“For any of this to happen, bureaucracy must die. Why? Because bureaucracy:

  • Adds overhead  by creating multi-tiered structures where hundreds of managers spend their time managing other managers.
  • Creates friction  by forcing new ideas to run a multi-level gauntlet of approval that creates significant lag time.
  • Distorts decisions  by giving too much power to senior executives who often have an investment in older processes.
  • Misallocates power  by rewarding those who are the most politically adept rather than those who are the most capable leaders.
  • Discourages dissent  by creating asymmetric power relationships that make it difficult for subordinates to speak up.
  • Misdirects competition  by encouraging individuals to compete for promotion and political advantage.
  • Thwarts innovation  by over-weighting experience and under-weighting unconventional thinking.
  • Hobbles initiative  by throwing up barriers to risk taking.
  • Obliterates nuance  by centralizing too many decisions and demanding compliance with uniform rules and procedures.

“In all these ways, bureaucracy imposes a ‘management tax.’ Like arterial plaque, it is mostly invisible, but no less dangerous because of that. To avoid the ‘management tax,’ we need to find ways of acquiring control, coordination, and consistency ‘duty free.’ Thankfully, information technology can help us do that.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

So what do you think? Is bureaucracy the bane of all innovation? Or is it foolish to believe that doing away with bureaucracy will make a company nimble enough to stay on the leading edge? How are you and your organization adapting in the constantly changing business world of today? Share your comments with us below.

See Gary in person at Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development this September in Palm Desert, CA.

Hamel_GaryGary Hamel is a long time GILD faculty member.  He speaks frequently at the world’s most prestigious management conferences, and is a regular contributor to CNBC, CNN, and other major media outlets. He has also advised government leaders on matters of innovation policy, entrepreneurship and industrial competitiveness. Hamel is leading an effort to build the world’s open innovation platform for reinventing management. The Management Innovation Exchange has been designed to radically accelerate the evolution of management knowledge and practice.

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