Brain power

Cutting down on bureaucracy and unleashing our human spirit at work

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

London Business School’s Gary Hamel and Management Lab colleague Michele Zanini have been fighting the good fight against bureaucracy for many years now, and they continue to wage war on it in their latest book, Humanocracy, in which they make a data-driven argument for uprooting bureaucracy and unleashing the human spirit at work.

One of the many interesting concepts outlined in the book is what the pair refer to as the Bureaucratic Mass Index, which is a 26 question survey sent out to thousands of executives to understand how bureaucracy affects them.

The study came to a number of key conclusions:

  1. Wasteful activities – The average person works in an organization with six management layers, with the largest organizations having around eight.  What’s more, it’s common for people to spend over 25% of their day on bureaucratic chores, which respondents believe have little to no value.
  1. Slowing down – 79% of respondents said these activities significantly slowed down decision making.
  1. Inward looking – It also emerged that around 42% of time was spent on internal issues, such as resolving disputes and negotiating for resources.  Executives are most guilty of such behaviors.
  1. Autocratic – Roughly two thirds of non-managerial workers reported having no control over their day-to-day work, either in terms of their methods or priorities.
  1. Resistance to change – Worryingly, 75% of respondents said that new ideas are typically met with indifference, skepticism, or resistance in their organization.
  1. Timidity – Of equal concern is the general lack of support for experimentation, with 95% of respondents saying it’s anything but easy for front line staff to launch a new initiative.
  1. Political – Change is also beset by political wrangling, with 62% of respondents saying that political skills usually determined who thrived at work, with this leaping to 75% in large organizations.

When the data was applied across organizations, a ‘BMI’ score was produced, with the average score a worrying 65.

“This simple survey starts to bring the costs of bureaucracy into focus,” Hamel says.  “For too long, large organizations have ignored these costs, perhaps assuming they were unavoidable.”

As the pair rightly point out, bureaucracy has been around for some time, and they themselves have riled against it for an equally prolonged period, yet we still cling to the same few organizations, such as Haier and Morning Star, that have managed to break free.  It does kinda suggest that bureaucracy will be around for a little while longer yet.

Article source: Cutting Down On Bureaucracy And Unleashing Our Human Spirit At Work.

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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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