Beat Bureaucracy

How bureaucracies go wrong

Legitimate reasons for bureaucracy  As organizations grow, their tasks become complex. To simplify tasks and make them manageable, organizations break the tasks into distinct components and assign each component to a work unit. These work units employ skilled specialists to ensure that the work is done well.

Bureaucracies must have unifying leadership to ensure that all departments remain focused on the organizations’ goals and that the departments work well together. 

Bureaucratic structure is necessary in large organizations. Although bureaucracies are not inevitably dysfunctional, they present a breeding ground for dysfunction.

Loss of focus on goals may lead to:

· more concern about one’s job and budget than about serving clients
· competitiveness, distrust and buck-passing among departments
· loss of motivation and caring — the faceless, heartless, lazy bureaucrat
· refusal to take initiative to provide better service because failure may hurt one’s reputation and limit
  opportunities for advancement
· language (bafflegab, fuzzification) and statistics that exalt the bureaucracy's work in an attempt
  to mask its failures
· refusal to respond to sudden changes or crises
· reports, years in the making, whose recommendations are never acted upon
· wastefulness (e.g., using up budget allotments even if some expenditures are unnecessary)

Lack of effective coordination may lead to:

· lack of communication (incoherent procedures, excessive paperwork, duplication of services)
· delays in decision-making and action while issues make their way from one department or level of
  management to another

It’s understandable:

Setting up services for millions of people is complicated. There are three major levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal), each with multiple departments.  Be prepared to learn which government offices can help you. It’s like being in a car or boat—learn to navigate the system.

We demand that our governments spend our tax money wisely and avoid waste. There are lazy people around who are attracted to government services like flies to a stack of dead fish. Although most people are honest and actually avoid asking for help if they can, the small number of scammers among us forces government to set up screening procedures to make it difficult for the scammers to succeed.

It’s inexcusable:

1. Some bureaucratic language is unnecessarily complex, specialized and pretentious.  Sometimes you need a translator to figure out what they’re talking about. (The Guardian newspaper in the UK has a huge glossary online to help readers understand what government officials are talking about.)

2. Some bureaucrats don’t want to help. Most bureaucrats are hard-working, intelligent folks who want to assist you. But people are people—just like the lazies who apply for assistance they don’t deserve, there are a small number of lazy bureaucrats who just don’t care.

3. Some bureaucrats are more concerned about covering their bottoms than delivering good service. To avoid being accused of wasting money on assistance to scammers, they set up procedures that make it difficult or impossible for honest applicants to get help.