Monday, December 10, 2007

Bureaucracy - unacceptable red tape or a useful organizational structure?

Bureaucracies grow to administer policies, procedures or regulations that an organization deems necessary to accomplish its mission. Without the bureaucracy and more recently, it's computerized equivalent, we would have to invent a procedure or process each time we wanted to accomplish what could be a routine task like registering a birth or placing an order.

Unfortunately some bureaucracies decide to actually become the mission which means that rather than providing a service they create work by building barriers to accomplishing the tasks. An immigration service, for example, may reinvent its role and consider it productive that applications are not processed efficiently. This is when we get "red tape."

All organizations, all systems for that matter, have automatic control mechanisms that keep them in some state of healthy, dynamic equilibrium, internally and with their environment. Such mechanisms are necessary for existence but, just like our immune system, can themselves get out of control and harm their host.

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