Here’s my definition of bureaucracy.  It’s a simple one.  It’s “deliberately choosing process over problem solving.”

Imagine you walk into an Emergency Room, clearly having a heart attack.  Imagine the triage nurse hands you a form to fill out.  THAT is choosing process over problem solving.  And it doesn’t mean the form is not important.  I am sure that name, insurance, next of kin, etc. could matter a lot in the next hour or two.  Just don’t start there!

Sadly, I see this a lot in larger organizations.  They work hard on process.  Good for them!  It’s the right thing to do!  Consistency.  Rules.  Repeatability.  All good things.

But then, something strange happens.  When you need help to solve a problem, even an urgent one, you are often escorted to the Process Dungeon, where you are mercilessly shackled until you bow and swear fealty forever to the Process King (and fill out a form, submit a spreadsheet, whatever the King demands) at which time you will often, but not always, receive the help you need.

Then, the recipients of the solution to the problem that started this mess in the first place will ask you why it took so long to fix.  That’s my favorite part.

So the questions are:  Who’s sitting on the throne in your organization?  And are you a problem solver or the jailer…?

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