December 14; Why Must We Have Bureaucratic Tie-Ups? MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:365 Daily Bible Verse &One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful
If you see the poor oppressed in a district,
and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things;
for one official is eyed by a higher one,
and over them both are others higher still.
Why Must We Have Bureaucratic Tie-Ups?
“It’s not on the org chart,” I said to my assistant. Since I was speaking as a government bureaucrat this meant that the unit did not exist.
He didn’t have to look at the large hierarchy of boxes and dotted lines that filled the horizontal triple fold-out. (I wondered…didn’t the girly magazines do vertical fold-outs? Where ‘portrait’ is more interesting than ‘landscape?’ …I was bored…)
My assistant cleared his throat to get my attention.
He brought in the Agency Manager of the missing department. Even though he was standing there, he didn’t exist until I found his box in the budget and organizational chart.
So. I had lost a $100 million department. It was necessary to find it for obvious political reasons, but we only became aware of the missing unit because I was working the Year 2000 rollover and we really needed to find all the computer hardware and update the software.
We finally found it. Hidden away, quietly chugging along. And there were lots of excuses good reasons why it was floating alone off on its own org chart, in its own universe.
How they got paid was outside the scope of my narrow search. I was assured that it was not illegal. One learns quickly not to ask too many questions in a very large organization. Not because I was timid, but because I was running out of band-width.
Your Business Professor has worked on both sides of the not-for-profit and for-profit tax code designations. The drive for excellence is a challenge in non-profits because the manager’s work is exponentially higher. The not-for-profit staff has passion. The non-profit military has patriotism. The civil servant has tenure.
Your Business Professor has worked in government and the military and academia so let us tread softly on how I may, or may not, have added value in various employments.
We should not minimize the efforts of the public employee. As A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, P. J. O’Rourke explains in Parliament of Whores,
It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth.
Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money. (O’Rourke, 1991)
Another humorist Jim Geraghty (or is he a political scientist? — could go either way) writes on how bureaucracies might self-describe,
“Where to begin? For starters, how many of our colleagues back in the office would you describe as having great drive and relentless professionalism?
Some, no doubt. But a certain portion of those attracted to the public sector’s work are looking for … a different pace than the one demanded elsewhere.
A certain stability of eight-hour days leading to a secure retirement, with a certain … flexibility in quality control. You notice no one ever says, ‘close enough for private sector work…’
“That tiny part of your soul that believes in a ‘good government’ ideal requires you to avert your eyes from the segment of the civil service that is attracted to the work precisely because it doesn’t really want to work.” (Geraghty, 2014)
Middle managers are often seen as wasteful bureaucratic overhead,
Corporate raider Carl Icahn described his strategy for making money as eliminating “ layers of bureaucrats reporting to bureaucrats,”
…Other experts pile on. Peter Drucker declared that “middle managements today tend to be overstaffed to the point of obesity,” and Jack Welch observed that “we were hiring people just to read the reports of people who have been hired to write reports.” (Osterman, 2008)
Bureaucracy is, “a classical management approach emphasizing a structured, formal network of relationships among specialized positions in the organization.” (Bateman, 2013)
Bureaucracies, red tape, forms and queues are maligned and blamed for business failures. But where did all this start?
Max Weber was a German Sociologist (but of course; from the same part of the world that gave us Bismarck and, well, Hitler) who questioned organizational behavior. He believed that job positions should be based on merit and the competence of the staffer and not family connections.
He wanted to see results and actual performance, so he set up rules. He was attempting to make the workplace fair to everyone and not just the boss’s son.
My uber-competent assistant found and fixed the missing business unit boundary. Weber would have been proud. I was proud (but still clueless).
If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. Ecclesiastes 5:8
P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government
Geraghty, Jim (2014-06-03). The Weed Agency: A Comic Tale of Federal Bureaucracy Without Limits (Kindle Locations 779-786). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The Truth About Middle Managers 2008, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, Paul Osterman. Page 2
Management 3ed, Bateman, Snell, McGrawHill, page 31.