If one were to draft articles of impeachment for traditional bureaucracy or bureaucratic management, they would likely include the following:
Article One: Unnecessary Bureaucracy Wastes Human Life.
Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. When humans spend time on unproductive activity (i.e., bureaucratic Brownian motion), it’s time they can no longer spend on productive activities, or in their personal, family, civic or community lives. It’s gone forever.
Excess bureaucracy, expressed in the form of brittle, rigid, traditional, top-down, command-and-control management systems, is hereby charged with wasting human life.
Article Two: Unnecessary Bureaucracy Imposes Staggering Costs.
The Management Lab estimates that the direct and indirect cost of excess bureaucracy in the U.S. is stunningly high: $3 trillion per year. That’s one-seventh of the entire U.S. economy for 2019. An executive team squandering one-seventh of an organization’s entire productive output would likely be charged with corporate waste or breach of the fiduciary duty of care. The $3 trillion wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy could be deployed for myriad critical needs: education, national defense, infrastructure, health care, and the environment—if it were available.
The cost of bureaucracy is a direct financial cost burden on the productive output of millions of human beings, and an opportunity cost in addressing multiple critical social needs. Excess bureaucracy is hereby charged with imposing a massive cost burden on society.
Article Three: Unnecessary Bureaucracy Obstructs Human Happiness.
Employee engagement surveys from multiple organizations routinely show that two-thirds to three-fourths of U.S. workers are disengaged, and that bosses, managers and supervisors are a prime source of disengagement. Active disengagement shows up as absenteeism, harassment, bullying, theft, drug use, and sometimes violence. Top-down bureaucratic management structure encourages low accountability: whenever something goes wrong, people on top can point downward and say “they didn’t follow my instructions correctly”, while those below can point upward and say “they didn’t give us the correct instructions.”
Structuring organizations for this perfect storm of bureaucratic non-accountability—up and down the organization chart—is a barrier to human happiness and productivity at work. Excess bureaucracy is hereby charged with thwarting human happiness.
If we can successfully impeach and remove unnecessary bureaucracy, let’s put some deep thought into what we can do instead to create more quality time, slash costs and open space for the workplace of the future.