Fight Bureaucracy Wherever You Find It
Centralizing power in the workplace in order to minimize risk and enhance consistency comes at a price. Bureaucracy thrives whenever organizations create too many processes and checkpoints to elevate decision-making to ensure uniformity from those on the field of action.
Once given too much power, bureaucracies expand their authority to control ever more of the essential work in an organization. The result can be dramatic over time.
Unleashed, bureaucracies place a chokehold on an organization’s ability to execute with speed and efficiency. When it becomes too strong, bureaucracy crushes innovation and creativity and becomes a tax on the entrepreneurial spirit within any organization.
The tariff of bureaucracy is a burden good leaders work hard to offset, while also recognizing the necessity of processes and the functional team members that support them.
The best leaders emphasize specific practices to combat the life-sucking tentacles of bureaucracy. By holding everyone in the organization accountable for results before processes, leaders help to overcome red tape.
For team members whose results are the processes and enforcement of policies, connecting them to enterprise outcomes encourages them to see matters from the lens of those on the front lines.
Leaders who understand the danger of bureaucracy also do everything possible to push down decision-making and give those on the ground more autonomy. Giving team members the freedom to respond to issues as they emerge streamlines effectiveness and puts commonsense ahead of rules and policies. Simple decision processes that do not require upward approval allow for consistency, without creating unnecessary constraints.
When an organization puts its faith primarily in rules and procedures, bureaucracy grows and squashes risk taking and initiative. Leaders who favor and reward for action take decisive steps to release an organization from too many checks and balances. As Lawrence Peter reminds us, “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” Fighting the creation of too much bureaucracy is what good leaders do.