Bureaucracy is not something other people do, bureaucracy is an art I would like to master.
All of my life I strove towards effectiveness of my work, towards contribution, good content. Rules were something for uncreative people, for those morons without imagination. Repetition, who likes that?
Surprise, surprise, it dawned on me only recently that formal systems make sense. That it makes even more sense to have rigidity as part of those systems. Red tape creates real value.
How come? How can this be?
- markets & hierarchies
- processes driven organisations
I’ve written about markets & hierarchies. The gist is that every organisation functions in two modes. One, market mode is when members of the organisation are free to interact with anyone. Market mode is like a gas, wherein molecules rumble around freely. Two, hierarcy mode is a sort of a crystalline lattice, wherein each members’ position is rigidly defined. Each uncontrolled movement of molecules within a crystal can produce fractures. Both modes can produce growth, and some of the best results are achieved via interweaving of both modes.
Process driven organisations are such for the shear need of repetitiveness. Repetition lowers costs. Good processes reduce number of errors, quality rises. Processes mean bureaucracy. Inevitably.
Intelligence is the ultimate reason. Intelligence is the ability to recognise intelligent behaviour, i.e. behaviour that leads to a beneficiary result through non-trivial ways. I would assume that since we’re self-considered as intelligent, we should also admit that most of the systems we design are a sign of intelligence. And yet, there is bureaucracy. Inspite of the usual bickering that we ascribe to it, bureaucracy was, is and will be developed by the most brilliant minds of our civilization. It makes sense.
Ok, now that I’ve argued that it makes sense, how can I benefit from mastering it?
In most cases bureaucracy means that some kind of reporting, or procedural behaviour is requested. There’s a form for this, an asignee for that, a permit for whatever. I have to satisfy each of these rules (forms, signatures, licenses, measurements, standards, milestones, etc.). To satisfy the rules means not to be perfect, but to find the lowest common denominator. Such behaviour saves time. Plus it provides a lot of freedom. And, at the receiving end of the forms there are always people. I actually look to satisfy them, not the rules.
To me the people within a bureaucratic mechanism are a special target group. One with clear rules about what makes them happy. Customers never tell you that. Once you find out how easily it is to satisfy a bureaucrat, you simply want more. This is what I am just experiencing in a project commisioned by the EU. And honestly, the bureaucrats I’m working with are all smart and hard working. So, for the first time in my life I am happy to be a bureaucrat. Project wise, to be precise.