Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Anti-Digital Mind: A Bureaucratic Thinking

Bureaucratic thinking generates negative energy which stops organizations from moving forward.

The word "bureaucracy" is often seen in pejorative circumstances. Though, its roots being: bureau(fr) = desk and kratos(gr) = rules/ power, it can embrace different meaning: According to dictionary.com, bureaucratic is “a system of administration based upon organization into bureaus, division of labor, a hierarchy of authority, etc, designed to dispose of a large body of work in a routine manner." From this perspective, it seems the larger the organization and inputs, the larger the amount of 'rules' necessary for its function and to keep dependent variables and outputs delivery stable. At industrial age, most of the organizations are running at silos, with the top down organizational structure, bureaucracy thinking is perhaps understandable, because “command and control” is part of business culture. However, in the digital environment in which organization’s function become more dynamic, the environment changes quicker than the 'speed' with which rules and processes can be changed, does bureaucratic thinking become the intolerable mindset to stop the change and mental barrier to stifle innovation? What makes the difference between bureaucracy and a 'healthy' organization?

Bureaucratic thinking divides “thinking” and “working”: With increasing rate of changes, the organization needs to be adapted in such a way that it can respond effectively to these dynamic changes in the environment. That requires a different kind of 'control,' for example, the control on desired outcomes, keep the end in mind. With that new kind of 'control,' organizations can be structured for example according to client-groups with multidisciplinary units which have the responsibility and authority to structure their own activities on the operational level. So from a managerial point of view, the 'Command & Control' changes from commanding What to do, When, How and by Whom towards a 'Command & Control' by defining the desired OUTPUTS. In these organizations, the division between 'working' and 'thinking' is replaced by combining and integrating 'working and thinking' at the operational level, where people do the real work by unifying mind, heart, and hands.

Bureaucratic thinking is a reason behind change inertia or vice versa? If analogizing an organization as a human body, it depends on where the resistance is aimed, if it is aimed against remedy, then it’s a pathogen; but if it’s aimed against the disease, it is from the immune system. The immune system protects and shields us against illness, and it also resists and fights against all agents threatening our well-being. More often, resistance is an attribute of the pathogen, not of the immune system, and the growth in resistance causes a concomitant loss of immunity. If resistance increases by one-third, immunity also decreases by one-third. Going forward, it’s all about the balance of avoiding any excess in setting the 'rules,' but remain the necessary control, and ultimately, a proper homeostatic system designed, seem to protect an organization's immunity and keep the business healthy. Levels and ways of inertia manifestation could be a criterion for measuring organizational health.

Bureaucratic thinking generates negative energy: It is about fear of failure; fear to get out of old habits ( a known style of doing things), fear to lose the status quo. It makes people feel threatened, that’s why learning is stressful. Overcoming personal fear of failure is the greatest challenge. What is resisted is to come out of one's comfort zone and learn something new. At one side, people resist learning, on the other hand, they fear to lose their positions or chances for promotion and growth. In such confusion, when they want to protect themselves, and at the same time, do not want to take a rational step towards learning, they may switch to their primal self, and generate negative emotions: envy, jealousy, blaming, flattery and so on…because all emotions described above release negative energy, and would not help to adopt the right course of action. We will have to remove all this negative energy and fill with positive ones to get to the right action - learning, adapting and maturing.

The business culture - the collective thinking depends on the maturity of the organization - in terms of its leadership and vision. Bureaucracy = Process Inefficiency. No Bureaucracy ≠ No Rules. When you design business processes by state flow instead of activity flow, and by using various categories of rules instead of the usual 'command and control' rules. That's a really good solution for defining a framework for activities, and at the same time keeping the necessary flexibility in place. Management of any type is a complex interaction of many cognitive systems, and in a knowledge society, we assume that we follow rational decision-making, but, in fact, our experience tells us that we observe highly technical and rational people acting on impulses/gut feeling or so-called “irrational mind” in spur of moments. The bureaucratic thinking (cause of change inertia) and irrational thinking (creating the blind spot in decision making) are the pitfalls at mindset level to stop organizations from a seamless digital transformation. It’s the time to shift these industrial thinking modes to the digital way and create synchronicity in various cognitive systems.


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