Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Three Gaps Caused by Bureaucratic Thinking

With increasing rate of changes, the organization needs to be adapted in such a way that it can respond effectively to the dynamic changes and to the variety in the environment.

The word "bureaucracy" is often seen in pejorative circumstances. Generally speaking, bureaucracy is a system based on a hierarchy of authority and division of workforce functioning in a routine manner. At the 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 the business culture. However, at the digital environment in which business functions become more dynamic and hyper-connected, the environment changes quicker than the 'speed' with which rules and processes can be changed, the gaps caused by bureaucratic thinking stop the change and turn to be the mental barrier to stifle innovation and the very obstacle to making effective decisions. Here are three gaps caused by bureaucratic thinking.

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 the dynamic changes and to the variety in the environment. That requires a different kind of 'control,' for example, the control on desired outcomes, keep the end in mind. From a managerial point of view, the 'Command & Control' changes from commanding What to do, When, How and by Whom (micromanagement) towards a 'Command & Control' by defining the desired OUTPUTS, but encourage the alternative and better way to do things, without getting stuck with “we always do things like that” mentality. In digital leading 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. 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 seems to protect an organization's immunity and keep the business healthy.

Change gaps: 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 at 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, change resistance is an attribute of the pathogen, not of the immune system, and the increase of change resistance causes a concomitant loss of immunity.  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 real good solution for defining a framework for activities, and at the same time keeping the necessary flexibility in place.

Energy gaps: Bureaucratic thinking generates negative energy which stops organizations from moving forward. It is about fear of failure; fear of getting out of old habits or 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 which cause the energy gap for encouraging mediocrity, unprofessionalism and stop the business from making the progress.  
Management of any type is a complex interaction of many cognitive systems. 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 for improving business effectiveness and maturity.


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