Reduce Bureaucracy, Increase Productivity

Entities and organisations are always looking for ways to increase productivity but perhaps they should focus on reducing bureaucracy first before attempting to implement even more processes at the workplace.


In today’s digital age, companies need to move at a quick pace to keep up with consumer trends and demands. Move too slowly and your closest competitor will be overtaking at any moment now. However, in bigger corporations and organisations, the problem of bureaucratic red tape often crops up, hindering any mid-level manager’s hopes to increase productivity and demonstrate their team’s real value to the organisation.

Courtesy of: Pixabay & StruffelProductions

Courtesy of: Pixabay & StruffelProductions

In a survey where 7,000 readers of the Harvard Business Review responded to questions pertaining to “bureaucratic sclerosis” at the workplace, management consultants Gary Hammel and Michele Zanini reported that findings show that “bureaucratic drag” hampers work efficiency and productivity. This is due to working hours not being used productively while new ideas that could potentially help the company were effectively ignored. The duo have been advocating for fewer bureaucratic layers at work in order to increase productivity and in their book Humanocracy (2020), they share their belief that the best thing any corporation can do in order to become more profitable while empowering their workforce is to do away with bureaucracy. Based on their findings, let’s take a look at how exactly bureaucracy can be bad for business.

How Bureaucracy Hampers Efforts To Increase Productivity

Courtesy of: Pixabay & Geisteskerker

Courtesy of: Pixabay & Geisteskerker

From the 2017 survey by Hamel and Zanini, the following are some conclusions made from the findings:-

●     Bureaucracy is a time-trap with workers spending too much time on bureaucratic chores

●     Bureaucracy is the enemy of speed, especially when decision-making needs to go through several layers of management that many deem to be unnecessary

●     Bureaucracy produces parochialism as all the red tape limits quick response and innovation in the face of emerging threats and opportunities

●     Bureaucracy undermines empowerment due to restriction on autonomic decision-making by front-line employees such as those in the salesforce and customer service department

●     Because employees feel less empowered and did not feel they were involved in or important to the decision-making process, they are usually inclined to resist any major changes undertaken by top management

●     Bureaucracy breeds inertia, with many respondents saying that new implementations always feel as if the company is playing “catching up” instead of being “groundbreaking”

From these findings, it is apparent that bureaucracy itself, while originally important for laying down due process, codes of conduct, standard operating procedures and such, is an obstacle in a corporation or organisation’s progress and profitability. So what’s a company to do when rules still need to be adhered to but it is apparent that the reins need to be loosened?

What An Employer Or Employee Can Do To Eliminate Bureaucracy

The creator of popular lifestyle blog Zen Habits (a Top 25 Blog according to TIME magazine), Leo Babauta, recommends the following steps to cut out bureaucracy and increase productivity. The steps can be employed by either a company that wants to trim the fat in a business, or by any individuals who just want to get the work done without having to jump through too many hoops!

  • Know what your priorities are and focus on those instead of on paperwork or meetings (except for truly essential ones, of course).

  • Do away with arbitrary forms and try to keep the paperwork as minimal as possible. Figure out a path with the least amount of resistance in getting the work done.

  • Eliminate unnecessary steps and levels of management when getting approvals for components that are crucial to the success of a project. For employees, sometimes this can be as easy as asking your immediate supervisor if you could go straight to the head of department for approvals on certain matters such as budget allowance or outstation work approvals.

Don’t be afraid to empower team members to take responsibility and ownership of projects they are working on. This will also encourage creative and innovative thinking in solving any problems that may arise.

Courtesy of: Pixabay & Free-Photos

Courtesy of: Pixabay & Free-Photos

  • Learn how to make decisions quickly based on the information on hand and projecting what the outcomes might be.

  • If you need more information, go and find it immediately so that progress can be made more quickly.

  • Become more action-oriented, either by becoming an action-oriented type of person or company that always focuses on getting things done, or by ensuring that your team consists of people like this.

  • Reward action, especially if quick and decisive action resulted in a positive move for the team or company and shows visible benefits.

Empowering employees will encourage creative and critical thinking, allowing them to make decisions more quickly. Meanwhile, with less time and energy wasted on redundant tasks, everyone on board can focus more effort and creativity towards innovating ideas and deliverables and in turn take the company to greater heights. By eliminating unnecessary steps in bureaucratic processes – or dismantling bureaucracy, as Hamel calls it, organisations and corporations big and small can look forward to an increase in productivity and profitability, even if realistically we may not be able to eliminate bureaucracy completely.

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