How to Eliminate Bureaucracy in Organizations?

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Genevieve Northup
Editor, Germany

How to Eliminate Bureaucracy in Organizations?

Likened to a crippling illness, many authors argued that bureaucracy must be eliminated from organizations. For example, Gary Hamel stated that bureaucracy prevents forward thinking and innovation, suppresses creativity and motivation, and “is the enemy of resilience” (as cited in Denning, 2014).
Management students and practitioners associate bureaucracy with a vertical mechanistic organization where strategic planning is conducted by upper management (Kreitner, 2009, pp. 245, 252). In such an organization, the “span of control” is narrow with many layers of supervisors, lower-level managers and middle managers, each overseeing relatively few employees (Kreitner, 2009, p. 251).

LESSENING BUREAUCRACY
To lessen bureaucracy, many organizations have REMOVED MANAGEMENT LAYERS hoping to encourage "employee empowerment" (Hamel as cited in Denning, 2014). However, these are just are superficial changes that have not actually decreased bureaucracy. Hamel argues that power still lies in the hands of the few so that employees are not actively involved in strategic planning and that hurdles still hamper the innovation process (as cited in Denning, 2014). Even after such reorganizations, bureaucracy remains.


OVERCOMING BUREAUCRACY
According to Nayer and Hamel (as cited in Denning, 2014; Kreitner, 2009, p. 185 ), to really overcome bureaucracy in organizations, they must perform an audit of policies, structure and mission focusing on following things:
  1. INNOVATION PLATFORMS: Create platforms for innovative ideas to flourish,
  2. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES: Focus on delivering unique experiences to customers, rather than increasing shareholder profits, (increased profits will occur organically from successful product differentiation),
  3. EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP: Enable leadership by allowing for more employee autonomy.
⇒ Do you have any other ideas/experiences on how bureaucracy can be fought in business firms or non-profit organizations?
Sources:
Denning, Steve. (2014, Nov 7). Why Bureaucracy must Die.
Kreitner, R. (2009). Management. (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin

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