Did you know that bureaucracy is a solution to disorganisation and disorder? Hierarchy introduced some degree of check and balance that enable things to move in an orderly fashion where discretion at various levels would have created sheer chaos. Industrialism is built on finding good-enough practices to be put into a standard operating procedure and with simple enough indicator for the average person to check if instructions were being followed and things were moving normally.
Bureaucracies were not built to retain or use talents – they were built to ensure continued, smooth operations and to maintain status quo. They worked in a world which changed slowly. And they created broad based benefits as it enabled the average person to get a good job, progress through the ranks and be considered to have done well in life.
So not all bureaucracies are bad or made to cause trouble. The difficulty comes when there’s a need to change. As the system is built to hang on to status quo, it becomes hard to change or shift with new needs. And then it becomes strained. Not only so, in order to meet changing needs, additional work-around and often more bureaucracies were created.
The future we want to step into is not one that’s void of bureaucracies but one where breathing spaces are built into bureaucracy to enable changes and where the rationale of rules must hold within the new context or those rules can be ignored. After all, it is often more important to understand contexts than to understand rules.