Saturday, October 14, 2017

How Can Digital Characteristics Brighten the Shadow of Bureaucracy

Organizations today must take the holistic digital management practices to keep the business flow, increase business flexibility, accelerate the speed and run a high-responsive and high-innovative digital organization.

Traditional organizations have a pyramidal hierarchy and overly rigid organizational structure and processes, which often enforce silo thinking and business bureaucracy. Generally speaking, bureaucracy is a system based on a hierarchy of authority and division of workforce functioning in a routine manner. Bureaucracy is criticized by its inflexibility, inefficiency, silo, stagnation, unresponsiveness, lack of creativity, etc. It is correlated with a mechanistic view of the organization and reductionistic management discipline. With increasing rate of changes and fast growing information, the organization needs to be adapted in a digital way that it can respond effectively to the dynamic changes and to the variety in the environment. But more specifically, how can emergent digital characteristics brighten the shadow of bureaucracy to improve management effectiveness and organizational maturity?

Fluidity: Bureaucracy causes stagnation. Organizations, like individuals, need to be in flow to operate smoothly. Digital means flow, information flow, mind flow, knowledge flow, and business flow. Fluidity streamlines the innovation process. How these ideas are recognized, filtered and dealt with will become a crucial factor in producing innovative products or services, build business competency, and expand its influence with the ability to co-create in a digital ecosystem. In today's volatile economy, nothing impedes progress more than protective silos which are simply a form of bureaucratic management hierarchy designed to preserve the status quo. An organization achieves the state of digital equilibrium through its management layers. Thus, delayering becomes a lens through which it is possible to examine and fix many other issues including bureaucracy. An organization can approach the flow zone when the positions in its hierarchy have clear, accountable tasks, ideas are shared and managed effectively, and processes are streamlined to improve organizational performance seamlessly.

Hyperconnectivity: Bureaucracy causes silo thinking. Digital is about connectivity, it means to have the better ability for dots connection across the geographical, functional, organizational, industrial, or generational boundaries. However, breaking down silos and being intentional about developing processes that encourage collaboration is a great first step in bringing about cultural change and accelerate digital transformation. Organizations and their people learn through their interaction with the environment. They act, observe the consequences of their action, make inferences about those consequences and draw implications for future action. The dynamic and enrich interaction can accelerate performance and talent multiplication to harness innovation capability.

High flexibility: Bureaucracy is often caused by overly rigid structure and business processes. The digital organizations should be a complex, but flexible social system starting to appreciate business attributes such as readiness, ownership, integration, open communication, customized structuring and multifaceted partnerships. The flexible digital organizational structure is implemented via the virtual team setting well mixing with the physical structure. These democratic processes will overtake hierarchical control, and that culture will become a more fundamental organizational asset. Looking at all the elements (including the human element) as an integrated and dynamic system that, functions as an organic living thing. 'Individual' work and 'group' work cannot be done as a segregated form but within a 'framework' of an entire system or 'frame of reference,' systems, processes, policies, culture, work climates, customers, and the whole business ecosystem. Digital leaders or managers are also flexible and comfortable with ambiguity and respectful of processes, without being slaves to them. They do not focus on hierarchy but on ideas, information, creativity, flexibility, openness, and curiosity. They can lead the flexible team with extensive experience and expertise to figure out alternative ways to do things and improve the overall business manageability.

High responsiveness: Bureaucracy decelerates the speed. Running a real-time digital organization means high-responsiveness and high speed. The reality is that organizations that do not respond to external environmental changes will quickly outcompete as more nimble enterprises take their customers. Digital organizations must have strategic responsiveness to process business information almost real-time, break down silos and communicate and collaborate with business counterparts. Even the speed of change is increasing, businesses still do have contexts of relative certainty, while simultaneously have contexts reflecting both complexity and chaos. Companies across sectors should be flexible to leverage tailored management approaches to fit specific circumstances, ultimately respond to the external environment as geopolitics, rapid innovation, and social expectations change the business landscape and blur the digital territories.

High innovativeness: Bureaucracy stifles innovation. But digital is the age of innovation. For many organizations with bureaucratic cultures, innovation is perhaps just a buzzword, very few people, especially leaders live with it. Because innovation is utilizing what you already have in a unique and creative way that has not been done before and using that thing to MAKE PROFIT, it takes risks, the organization must step out of the “comfort zone,” battle bureaucracy, and understand innovation as a process, a management discipline, and capable of delivering the organization-wide capability. At today’s digital dynamic, innovation is a matter of survival in the long term for any organization, and lead to the creative economy at the macro level.

Though organizational bureaucracy inherited from the traditional management discipline brings a certain level of business efficiency. With hyperconnectivity and increasing speed of changes, it becomes the barrier to digital transformation. Organizations today must take the holistic digital management practices to harness cross-functional communication and collaboration, increase business flexibility, accelerate the speed and run a high-responsive and high-innovative digital organization.


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