The Management of Bureaucrats: 1 Rule, 3 Options



small business

In the management of any small business, the business owner must deal with bureaucracies. It might be your own. It might be someone else’s.

But you must learn to manage that person whose every incentive is the polar opposite of your incentive. Your Small Business Owner’s Doppelganger is…the Bureaucrat.

Rule Number One:

Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no.

Morton Blackwell, founder of The Leadership Institute, wrote The Laws of the Public Policy Process that has 45 such pithy points.

They are helpful to anyone dealing with the servants grinding out the sausage of law, policy, rule and reg. I keep a copy framed near my desk — even when that desk was a part of the Office of the Governor. But Your Business Blogger was no mere Bureaucrat.

No siree. I was an Appointed Bureaucrat.

Here’s what I learned: Governments and most any organization have what my favorite political scientist would call “multiple points of accountability.”

This is where any stakeholder or key influencer or television camera can veto an action. The Bureaucrat learns very quickly that vetoes will come fast and from all directions with lethal effect onto any movement by said Bureaucrat. There is no penalty for no decision. It is safer for a simple preemptive “No.”

 

Remember our Bureaucrat is in a matrix (an organizational structure; not the movie — although it may seem that way). He can get fired by a number of bosses. Or worse: to work past 5pm or on Saturday. A fate worse than death.

For example, we have seen the inner workings of the Bureaucrat in his natural habitat: Hurricane Katrina.

I have found one method of confronting this breed in the public or private sector:

Don’t.

Instead try these options, three Bureaucrat workarounds:

1) Use a third party. Watch how our Congress does it: Closing military bases a hot potato(e)? Form a commission. Afraid of controversial social issues? Let the Supremes decide. The good manager finds that third party. Finds that friend. There is always someone, somewhere who will sign off or lift off your project — for a price. (Call me for rates.)

2) There are some Bureaucrats who can be inside champions for your project. Here’s how you can identify this rare subset: Ask them if they like the child’s game of ‘Whack-a-Mole.’ If the Bureaucrat brightens up, leans forward and smiles, start enlisting. If the weather turns cloudy, walk away. Finding that particular Bureaucrat is tricky. Think CIA and spy recruiting.

3) Or my favorite — simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg forgiveness. At 4:55pm. Friday’s are best.

It is the smart Small Business Owner who uses the One Rule, Three Options Matrix for managing Bureaucrats.

89 Comments ▼

Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

89 Reactions
  1. Let us not try to give bureaucrats such a bad name (grin)…

    As my business grows, I found out that i need people who makes sure processes are followed, and that the documentation is done. Not a lot of people want to do that, and there is always many people in the company who wants to circumvent decisions made, or make a short cut of the process to avoid work.

    Yes, a bureaucrat who knows how to prioritize, and get things done is still a jewel.

  2. Josephine Livingston

    Bureaucrat is someone who must be able to lead, be hard but fair, and cut through lots of red tape. So many of us, think that one within that role must only follow orders. As the leader, beyond all the bureaucracy, it must be known to his/her employee that everyone has the responsibility to improve the work environment. There are many things within the workplace that are out the employees control, as the leader (bureaucrat) he/she can adhere and provide accurate information to those in charge. Bureaucrats not only have to follow orders, he/she must see that the policies and the structure of the organization is in compliance with upper management as well as how authority is given.

  3. It seems to me that bureaucrat has become a very long four-letter word, or at very least an insult, in today’s fast moving world. Its unofficial definition could be someone who makes all progress come to a grinding halt or at least derails every project that comes across his desk. From that point-of-view, the advice given in this column holds a lot of wisdom. The only way to avoid getting hit by that slow, lumbering truck is to stay out of its way– if you can.
    What motivates a person to become a bureaucrat? Why derail all progress, letting paperwork sit, sit, sit on one’s desk, only to say no to whatever it requests? Are bureaucrats procrastinators who clear their desks by stamping “DENIED” on everything in their inboxes right before vacation — so that they can go away with a clear conscience? Really, what is the deal? An organization – even a government — is a team with a goal. Shouldn’t we all be working together? Oh…. maybe that’s it, conflicting goals, conflicting priorities. I want to remind bureaucrats that there is no “I” in TEAM — if you are wondering to what team I refer, you may just be a bureaucrat.

  4. Jelena Cobanovic

    Very interesting article! In my opinion, bureaucracy can be both efficient and inefficient. If a bureaucracy is properly designed, it would be staffed with trained and motivated employees, and effectively resourced. If a bureaucracy is not set up and maintained in that proper way, it can waste resources and cause damage to an organization. Therefore, bureaucracy structure can be beneficial when used properly and horrible when used wrongly. However, it seems like in the United States in the recent years people generally do not have positive opinion about bureaucracies. Bureaucratic rules and authority are often unfair to many and if people are blindly following those rules they may do their tasks incorrectly, and those actions will not contribute to the company’s goals. Having the strict rules and regulations used in bureaucracies often eliminate the freedom of a person to act and form his or her opinions because of those certain restrictions. This is wrong as everyone should be able to express themselves and have a freedom to act and think outside of the box. Another flaw of bureaucracy is that when there is the need to follow a chain of command to proceed, a lot of important time can be wasted especially in some crucial situations when decisions are needed quickly.

  5. A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy can compose the administration of any organization of any size, although the term usually connotes someone within an institution of government. Bureaucrats are known to be split into different categories based on the system, nationality, and time they come from. The main categories are: Classical, American, Chinese, European, and Modern bureaucracies.

    It is important to know that bureaucrats can work to be a major part of any organization rather t be for positive reasons or negative. They are typically appointed to the position based on conduct. The goal of the bureaucrat must be exercised by good judgement and skills, but the duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority.

    I believe that it is extremely important to identify with your bureaucrats sooner than later. Although bureaucrats are supposed to be fair, there are some bureaucrats who enjoy stirring up the pot. The more a company can identify with the bureaucrat, the more likely that the bureaucrat will side with decision made within the organization when problems arise. I believe that it’s a good idea to have bureaucrats so if they are truly for the right mission.

  6. Bureaucrats would be best seen as a neutral member who can serve a positive or negative purpose. Depending on how the bureaucracy is established, it could have members who are well trained and motivated in the right direction. Their mission should always to move forward with positive intent and good judgement. I would stress however that bureaucrats are quite known to be on either end of the spectrum – some very good and others very bad. Another flaw I see in bureaucracy is the notion that a series of higher judgements must be made before one is able to make any decision. This could render the decision to be costly if time was of the essence.

  7. At first when I read this article, I was confused how dealing with government bureaucrats connected to what we are learning in Human Resources Management, but upon reading the article a few times over, it is easy to understand how these tactics apply to any field. The rule number one: “Never give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no” can apply to many different fields and all kinds of management positions. I also think that this mentally connects to Completed Staff Work because a Bureaucrat will have a hard time saying no if a manager or employee gives him or her no reason to say no. In the case of Completed Staff Work, the employee would work out all of the kinks before presenting their ideas to the manager, so they are more inclined to approve the work. In the same way, if a manager presents an initiative to a Bureaucrat after fixing all possible mistakes, then it would be hard for this person to say no. I also like the first rule of Bureaucrat workarounds: Use a third party. This rule is a good tactic because there are appropriate loopholes to any initiative and good managers will use their resources to achieve their goals.

  8. Bureaucracies could be very helpful if they are run the right way. Most of the time, bureaucracies have been hard to control. I do not however think it is a coincidence that Americans do not like these bureaucracies. Americans often do not like being told what to do. People want to understand the rules and do their work the way they want to do it. For the most part, when people hear information from these bureaucracies, they feel as if they are getting bossed around and they don’t like it. Like I said before, they could be very helpful if they are run correctly and give employees the opportunity to be better work with others. At the end of the day, if bureaucracies focused more on the betterment of the employee themselves, I think they could be more effective. Bureaucrats often seem to work for themselves and for the betterment of the organization they are working for. Therefore, I think if they focused more on working with the employees individually, then the employees would buy into their work a little more. While many people don’t like bureaucracies, I think that they could be very beneficial in the business world. At the end of the day, I think they just need to work on how they are delivering the information.

  9. Mary-Christina Onyeocha

    Bureaucracy is one of the subjects that gives more of negative impression/reaction in many people. Some of the instant thoughts about bureaucrats include; bossy, big brother, suppression, manipulation, a cheat, law, policy, regulation, or “iron bars that stifle effectiveness and innovation” (on the words of Max Weber); and, sometimes presumed as limitation to human freedom and achievements. Who does not want to celebrate little sense of being real and relaxed as much as could be afforded? On the contrary, some bureaucrats who manage to drop off the heavy weight of the bureaucratic hoods to enjoy some natural and fresh air with the commons are those on the track to becoming the human being fictionally envisioned by Robert Heinlein. Yet, it demands prudence/diplomacy because, “he can get fired by a number of bosses…” Even in the struggle to become a little bit more human, unconscious embargoes shroud the bureaucrat. Yet, someone must occupy that office and execute the policy and regulations. The 1 rule, 3 options make sense for different kinds of personalities. For the courageous, the preferred option would be Prof. Yoest favorite – “simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg forgiveness. At 4:55pm. Friday’s are best.” This option works for me with success; but, it requires courage, prudence, and accurate timing (a lot of energy). The three Bureaucrat workarounds are equally good options because, “there is always someone, somewhere who will sign off or lift off your project…”

  10. In life we all know that we can’t escape adversity. This article makes that clear and its something i agree with a lot. In our personal lives we may yell, we may scream but things have to handled with more delicacy than that in the work environment.. the three guildlines see I think offer good insige on how to deal with someone that stands so opposed to you in every way.

  11. Mary-Christina defined and summarized the most common thoughts of a bureaucracy above accurately for me. The term typically comes with a negative connotation and not as often in a positive light. When I think of the term, I think of someone (or a group) that rarely listens to or entertains the input of other and typically close-minded. While I am open-minded and hope to have this impression amended.

    A great part of the article that I particularly agreed with is ” Here’s what I learned: Governments and most any organization have what my favorite political scientist would call “multiple points of accountability.”

    This is where any stakeholder or key influencer or television camera can veto an action. The Bureaucrat learns very quickly that vetoes will come fast and from all directions with lethal effect onto any movement by said Bureaucrat. There is no penalty for no decision.”

    This article and reading the comments not only made me think and opened my mind, like a great and well-supported one does.

  12. No matter how much a business is small or big, every owner of that particular business needs someone who can take care of the whole process of the business, meaning someone somewhere who is skillful in his or mind to handle the legal processes of that business. I quiet agree with the article on its 3 option strategy . A successful business owner should always look for a third party person within the business to get the things done rather than handling everything by himself.

    I believe that taking your own initiative to do things is always an option but it might prove to be a risky accountability on a business owner’s behalf to do things while carefully look at the facts, but ultimately if the higher authorities or the so called government agencies who regulate small scale businesses don’t like that kind of effort from the business owner’s side, it might prove to be lethal for the owner itself.

    I surely agree with the fact that managing bureaucrats is tricky and it should solely be left on to the business owner’s hands how to deal with it and picking up the right bureaucrat to do the processing job for the business.

  13. Harshani Kumarasinghe

    Every owner needs to be somewhat extend a bureaucrat. despite of small or big the entity. the leader or th manager who runs the team needs to be a hard and fair thats hat you can earn the respect from your team and make team followers to the ultimate best. the beauty of this is bureaucrat needs to to have an update mind set and ie what really gong on around the business world. thats where the multiple accountability come in action rather than “just one at a time”.

    i truly agreed with the article and the point have listed. we all have screamed sometime when we need to get the work done, but it doesn’t mean that we have failed. being hard and sometime the work in rule needs to be done not just government entities i believe anywhere when you run the team or lead. thats why the beauty when accomplishing a task it is so perfect, just because being hard and same time humble , respectful leader would be better call for a bureaucrat even it is not the nature.

  14. In this article, I have learned that Bureaucrats are the best as a neutral member who can serve a positive or negative purpose. Bureaucrats have members are motivated and trained in the right direction. In addition, they could be helpful if they heading to the right way. The article clarify that we can not escape diversity because we have to deal with people who have different cultures, in order to be good bureaucrats. I have learned from this article, that bureaucrats are supposed to be fair or adjuster. In my opinion, it is significant the bureaucrats to be a major part of any organization because they have goals to make any organization more successful and achieve their targets. I agree, that bureaucrats focus more on the betterment of the employees themselves, and I think they could be more effective.

  15. Veronica Cordova

    The article is really interesting because it gives us a different perspective on how bureaucrats work within the organization. In some articles they mentioned the word bureaucracy as a leadership that could have a bad reputation, but it is one of the oldest leadership styles in the world. It is an efficient way to govern a leadership that has proven to be a simple way to govern and organize societies. It is important to mention that bureaucrats can be really important for the organization. Bureaucrats are responsible for improving the work environment and leading the organization. I agree that it is a good idea to have bureaucrats in the organization, because they are people who will help enrich the mission of the organization and can manage a large number of people who need to work together. In conclusion, bureaucrats are important to the organization and are great leaders.

  16. Priscilla Sanchez

    I would say that based on this article, bureaucrats is seen as the neutral member who can go either way positive or negative. It all depends on the environment that the members are working in. This all depends on what their motivation is held and this could lead to the right direction. It is important that they should always have good intensions for their company and with good judgement to proceed in a positive way. Bureaucrats are set to be a major part of an organization because they aim for the goals and achieve their targets and successes. Yes, they do have a flaw where they focus more on themselves because they believe they could be more effective in delivering it themselves.

  17. Meagan McClendon

    Bureaucracies are usually characterized with extreme authority which can leave a business unmotivated and stagnant. An unmotivated office environment needs a balance between consistency and creativity as each employee is liable to enhance the work environment. This balance can be achieved by putting more emphasis on customer focus. A good way to modify bureaucracy structures is through projects. Projects allow organizations to perform special tasks or solve specific problems under a project manager through groups which compromise employees with specialized knowledge and experience. Project structures can generally lessen bureaucratic systems better than functional departments within an organization.

  18. I think that the idea of bureaucracies has a bad connotation with them and that they actually can be efficient and effective if done properly. People may atomically think that they are bossy, controlling and manipulative in order to get what they want. How can they fix that? They should improve the way that their information is delivered in order to gain confidence and respect from the business world so that way they can be successful. Bureaucracies try to be effective and beneficial and have the ability to help companies and employees work together, as long as they are working to help the concept of Completed Staff Work.

    This article really made me think and I like the three workaround points that were made at the end to help work with and manage a bureaucrat. Using a third party, identifying the bureaucrat and then going with your initiative can be strategies to manage your business and be successful in the end.

  19. I currently work for the government, and I understand the need for bureaucracy in that setting. I work for the DC government in budget, and one thing that is drilled into our minds is that we are not managing our money or the money of DC, we are managing the money of the residents of DC and with this comes more responsibility. The government shouldn’t be run like a for-profit business because it isn’t. There needs to be checks and balances to ensure that funds are being spent and decisions are being made that truly meet the needs of the people. As for the private industry, bureaucracy is not necessarily needed, but some of the practices could help fix some of the abuse going on the industry.

  20. Prior to reading this article, I was under the impression that bureaucracies had a general negative connotation. I think that is a common misunderstanding about the matter. However, after reading, I found that if administered in appropriate fashion, bureaucracies can actually be very beneficial to organizations. If bureaucratic leaders are stern and fair with their employees in all aspects, then they should earn the trust and respect of their workers, which we have learned is of utmost importance in an organization. As a result, the best quality work will be achieved. Further, I think that bureaucratic leaders can also be mistaken for being self-interested, which will push away workers from the organization. Workers will feel less valuable and less heard. This could lead to retaliation against the leader. which can include strikes and quitting. In order for bureaucracies to avoid this, their leaders can be aware and conscious of how they communicate with their workers. They also must be sure to give them a voice and remain democratic.

  21. The article gives essential recommendations about how to manage bureaucrats as a small business owner. As a small business owner, you are the one who will make a decision about your business and will have to meet with government representatives in order to work with them for your business ,either about law stuff or an initiatives. At that point, you have to know how to deal with bureaucrats. There will be good bureaucrats make your job easier and help you to improve your business and there will be some who will give you hard times. You have to be ready to deal with them and make the relationship very efficient in terms of you and your business.

  22. There will always be obstacles in the way of you attempting to accomplish your goal(s), some self-induced and other’s that come from people who just want to cause confusion and delay the process. It is important that we not give those individuals too much attention, because it will only delay our efforts. Acknowledge their concerns, but do not allow them to take up too much of your time.

  23. Bureaucracy have been developing throughout the years as an answer for many gaps in law and policies which makes it now complicated and not always easy to understand for us. People are very good at going around given regulations so as a result the new ones are added to prevent similar actions in the future. We might think that all administration and regulations make business more difficult to run and more complicated but at the same time we need them to know how to proceed in certain situations.
    Extending bureaucracy gives a chance to create new job positions and at some level we might consider that as a positive aspect.
    I do not think there is anything that we could do to avoid administration system so we certainly should be aware and conscious of all steps we should take and consequences that we might face later.

  24. When forced to work in a bureaucracy, I agree with Rule Number One: Never give the bureaucrat a chance to say no. I work in a bureaucratic environment, and have seen firsthand how a simple decision turns into chaos when multiple stakeholders must provide input on that decision. It often seems as if each stakeholder is more interested in “making their mark,” rather than simply providing the relevant input needed to make the decision. Out of the three options presented as bureaucrat workarounds, my preference is number 3 – proceed with the initiative and ask for forgiveness later. I have found that the less questions and permission I ask, the faster I can get things done, and usually without any negative ramifications. Bureaucracy is probably always going to exist in every organization to some extent. Every manager would be wise to anticipate it, and have strategies ready to counteract the bureaucracy when it is headed their way.

  25. Bureaucrats in this article are seen to be the gate keepers to destiny with legal actions. they have the main power to turn you down and veto any laws that have been passed. learning how to deal with bureaucrats for your small business is very vital. finding the good bureaucrats will make your job easy and can help you your business improve. Running into the wrong ones can make your life a misery! They can make it hard for your business to thrive with ll the laws and vetos that are going ronin your state. the best thing that you can do is get to know them build relationships that can benefit your business.

  26. Bureaucrats understand how their organizations work and use that knowledge to influence decisions in the directions they see fit. Part of the reason they are bureaucrats is because they know what will keep them in power and what will not. By implementing the rule of not letting them say no it can lead to mutual benefits for them and the organization. Following this simple rule relates to what we have learned in The Memo about completed staff work. Go to the boss with all the kinks already worked out so all they have to do is make a decision and then the organization moves on. The ability to work out all the details before delivering the proposal to a superior is crucial in getting most things done. The completed staff work also cuts out one of the “no’s” you could encounter.

  27. When I think of bureaucrat, I imagine stacks of forms leading to more stacks governed by company policy and procedure. They restrict efficiency and timeliness when solutions seem simple in nature, reminding me of dependencies in my project manager’s Gantt Charts. The waste of time and resources ensuring that a request is opened correctly or proper language is included ruins the week for me when it gets rejected. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, relief was tied up in so many processes and government channels that the area suffered needlessly from inaction. My favorite is actually subcontracting some of recruiting and web to other companies, so we can avoid the complacent bureaucrat in those areas and concentrate on where we gain a competitive advantage in the market.

  28. Mayara Correa Bonamichi

    An organization is a team that has a goal (even if the organization is the government) and, as a team, all the parts should work together and with the same purpose. Bureaucracy focuses in enhancing the efficiency of administrative structure in order to achieve an effective outcome of its service, but bureaucracy can be efficient or not efficient at all, depending on how it is established. Some members are well trained and motivated while others are not, reason why some bureaucrats are not seen as a positive part of the team. In my opinion, another flaw of the bureaucracy system is that, because of all the strict rules and regulations used in bureaucracy, it sometimes eliminates the freedom of employees to act the way they want and to form their own opinion. I like the option of using a third party, it is always good to have a neutral opinion.

  29. I thought that it’s the only organization’s culture and policies that produces bureaucrats, and it is more a system that paves the ground for bureaucracy than individuals. Maybe that’s right, but this topic focuses more on individual bureaucrats within a business and clarify that bureaucrats are a major part of bureaucracy than the organizational culture. Whatever it comes from, it is extremely critical to identify bureaucrats as soon as we can and find a solution for the them. I believe the second option would be more realistic if the organization could solve the bureaucracy by bureaucrats and that would be a good option to put them on the mission.

  30. Dealing with bureaucrats never seems easy, and can be quite frustrating. When dealing with any government entity it seems impossible to avoid interacting with bureaucrats. The three workaround options offered in this article provide insight and advice on possible ways to handle them. The first option I find to be very enlightening. It very poignantly illustrates how Congress tries to avoid blame for any outcome that may offend their constituency. Congressmen desperately depend on their constituents’ votes, so they cannot be the cause of voters in their respective districts losing jobs. Forming a commission to do the ‘dirty work’ allows the Congressmen to maintain separation from the process, thereby allowing them to later claim that they fought hard to keep the jobs within their district, whether they did so or not. Quite clever!
    The second option of finding a bureaucrat on your side seems like it would produce the best results in your favor, if you can find that person. The begging for forgiveness seems to be a popular course of action to take when dealing with bureaucrats. Asking for permission before you proceed with your plan breaks rule number one. It gives the bureaucrat a chance to say no.

    • As it is true for all the lawmakers and bureaucrats, they passed and support things/regulation that aligned with their agenda or values. Anything else, you have to either convince them by using one of the three bureaucrat workarounds offered in the article above. Also, sometimes we give the bureaucrats so much power by relying on them for a lot of things. At some points, we have to not compromise with them for the stuff that we know we can get done without them even if they could facilitate to get it done fast. Furthermore, I would rather deal with a bureaucrat who vetoes things for the sake of the well-being of the future; rather than having a bureaucrat who sign off everything that lands on his or her desk so long as it is from his or her political party/cronies regardless of the consequences that might arrive after his departure. I am sure the intended purpose of creating the bureaucrat positions was not for them to have a negative connotation

  31. I voluntarily transferred out of the Field Artillery several years ago. I left my basic combat arms branch of service for the Army’s functional area known as “Force Management.” As an Army force manager, I’m charged with “making the Army run;” essentially helping subordinate Army commanders from both the generating and operating forces, as well as senior Army leaders, navigate the complex, institutional processes and systems used to produce capabilities, structures, and most importantly, trained, lethal, and ready forces for employment by joint (commandant) commanders. If I’m to live up to my billing as a force manager, I’m to be an expert Army “bureaucrat.”
    I have a lot of experience dealing with bureaucrats.
    Big government issues, actions, can be so opaque, so process-oriented, so “regulated.” No one person knows everything that one would need or want to know to truly diagnose and solve an intractable, ill-structured problem (as one colonel described them to me).
    So some additional advice from me would be:
    Get others involved in your project early and often. “Pre-coordinate” any controversial or hard-to-understand issues that affect other “departments.” Use a common, consistent “taxonomy” during projects; so each disparate “fiefdom” knows what-the-heck everyone’s talking about. Finally, articulate your needs in terms of “risk;” decision-makers pay attention to sound risk assessments; and be sure to clearly articulate “non-quantifiable” benefits to stakeholders (on top of quantitative cost-benefit analysis).

  32. As it is true for all the lawmakers and bureaucrats, they passed and support things/regulation that aligned with their agenda or values. Anything else, you have to either convince them by using one of the three bureaucrat workarounds offered in the article above. Also, sometimes we give the bureaucrats so much power by relying on them for a lot of things. At some points, we have to not compromise with them for the stuff that we know we can get done without them even if they could facilitate to get it done fast. Furthermore, I would rather deal with a bureaucrat who vetoes things for the sake of the well-being of the future; rather than having a bureaucrat who sign off everything that lands on his or her desk so long as it is from his or her political party/cronies regardless of the consequences that might arrive after his departure. I am sure the intended purpose of creating the bureaucrat positions was not for them to have a negative connotation.

  33. Hello Professor Yoest,

    Thank you for sharing this article as I greatly appreciated the insights that were provided. I believe that being a bureaucrat comes with great responsibility like many positions.

    While everyone has different methods for leading teams to success, I believe that the last of three rules mentioned resonated with me the most. I believe that a leader should have the confidence in themselves to make well-informed decisions. Due to the push back that can often be received, sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission to ensure that tasks are completed.

    Thanks again for sharing this great article!

  34. Calvin Chinanzvavana

    This is just next level thinking right here Professor Yoest!!!! I got to experience this situation firsthand whilst working for an entrepreneur who dealt with bureaucracies in a heartbeat but at times a bit to abruptly and rather harshly, “change the people or change the people”. Very rarely do you come across people with the same behavioral approach, so one needs to know his colleagues and their function. Reading this article shows how an owner goes through a cycle as illustrated by Ken Blanchard leadership style. Business owners must carefully deliberate on how to deal with a bureaucrat in the organization who’s focus is on procedural correctness at the expense of people’s needs which might be a necessity in certain situations. Certain approaches work in certain situations and some Bureaucrats can be inside champions for your project, so the small business owner must be careful with dealing with such situations.

  35. In general and historically, bureaucracy has been seen as a problem all around the world. It is almost always linked to incompetence. However , are bureaucrats not a necessity? In my opinion, we as society need them to some extent. As a matter of fact, we need regulation and mindful regulations. The issues here is that most of the time, the government and its representatives, sometimes are overreaching, or over regulate. Regulations should not hurt businesses on the contrary, they should create a proper business environment where all types of businesses small or big strive. However the need of some kind of regulation is crucial, otherwise, it would chaos out there and the little guy, the consumer for example would be crushed. The common good should be central. There are always bad and good cops, always. The bottom line is that, we need the police still even if within the police, there are bad apples. Similarly , there are good bureaucrats and they are bad ones. Depending of one political affiliation, we might like them or despite them, but that is not the point. They are here to stay, as they are not going away any time soon.

  36. Esther Ambouroue

    This article grasps clearly the issue that most small business owners have to go through. The reality is that every business might need some bureaucracy to maintain control within their organization. Bureaucracy helps business owners to implement the different policies while securing jobs and creating a path for every individual involved to succeed.

    The three main options stated above are nicely thought through. Indeed, each of these options put in light the importance of being, sometimes, a risk-taker while creating and mending relationships in order to have an efficient business.

  37. Darnell Albert El

    The old saying it is not what you know but who you know in a bureaucracy comes to mind.There are always bad and good cops, You jusst have to know who and where they are in your organization

  38. Komba James Lebbie

    Bureaucracy can create a culture of punctilious and consistency. It makes crates a culture to “either get it right or get it right”. A system that has a penchant for “short cut” might need some bureaucrats. However, some situations do not require an “iron sense” approach. This is where bureaucracy becomes an hinderance. Bureaucrats should balance the tension between compliance authority and rational authority. Life is capricious, bureaucracy too should be.

    My wife is my own bureaucrat. She prefers taking the “long road” even when the “short road” is ideal. She obeys the “ten commandments”. I sometimes use my “eleven commandments” (thou shall take risk). I will skip her bureaucracies to get things done.

  39. Roscoe Conkling

    You bring up the one thing which formed my opinion on bureaucrats growing up and that’s Hurricane Katrina. There was so much red tape and so many layers of government involvement before the needs of the people could finally be addressed. Bureaucrats are needed and they serve a purpose but I have almost zero use for them. I would rather be told the answer immediately instead of having to jump through all the hoops to finally get it. In a world where timeliness is everything, bureaucrats drive me crazy. I understand how many corners would be cut and how little order we would have when things get hectic without them, but thankfully, it is not my job to clean up the mess afterwards and it’s always easier to ask to forgiveness than permission.

  40. This article is spot-on. I had a colleague whose catchphrase was “only answer the question you are asked” i.e., never do more than the bare minimum, never offer to fix the problem another way, or go beyond exactly what the enquirer asked for. So even if she knew what you needed, she would only ever answer your specific question, and usually the answer was “No”, probably because your question was the wrong question. Or maybe you tried to be polite and not ask directly… In any case, your problem was not her problem! Needless to say this resulted in very long email chains to get to the point (and resolution) of anything. In her defense, she did a great job of protecting upper management from small issues, and she did a great job of regulating workflow – she was a bottleneck and could control what proceeded up to the next level – this is not an altogether negative role to play. I will concede that it was very frustrating for people to come up against her though! I do think that workarounds are the best in these situations. I liked option three the most – as a mentor once said to me “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”.

  41. This article was great and raised some interesting points about bureaucracy in business. Companies put these bureaucratic systems, which are often very layered and rigid, in place to maintain control over the workflows and practices. Often, they over process simple practices causing lots of bottlenecks and delays. I’ve found that these systems while helpful to upper management and leadership can interrupt projects and cause many inefficiencies. It can be very frustrating for those trying to push projects along and I’m sure it is very tedious for the “middle man or gatekeeper” between the general staff and management teams. The three workarounds were spot on and should definitely be implemented to get things accomplished. Personally, I’ve found the use of an inside champion to be the most effective of the three. If you appropriately identify a strong advocate for your work or project, you are more likely to push through the red tape and successfully finish the project with minimal delays. These insiders are also really helpful resources for direct access to leadership. Of the three options, the third – proceeding and asking for forgiveness later – is the most risky. While it could prove helpful to push a project across the finish line, it comes with an increased chance for backlash and disciplinary measures should something go array or management catch wind of it.

  42. Working within a large city local government for a good portion of my professional career, I tend to view this from a slightly different perspective. During my time, I was one of the many, who acquiesced to ever-changing winds of direction that would trickle down from some of the most powerful bureaucrats in the city. During my early days on the job, the trickle-down of some of those decisions just didn’t make any sense to me. How could one day the direction by “x” and then two weeks later, the direction was “y”? It was then that I learned the power of the 3rd party or the influencer with access, that could advocate on behalf of one person, to get the person with the authority to move in a certain direction. No different than lobbyists in the federal government or boosters within a collegiate athletic program. Just someone who can solve problems for you and help you remove obstacles. Being a business owner, there will always be laws that stand in your way, not fighting those battles yourself but getting someone with experience and a track record, would be worth their weight in gold. Trust me, I’ve had to complete tasks on the strength of someone who knew how to use their access.

  43. For so long, bureaucracies always had a negative connotation in my mind. The term felt aggressive or overbearing and even unnecessary at times. However, this article seems to take that stereotype I had and changed it around. Bureaucracies are not all bad, there was a reason they were put in place to begin with – there needs to be someone in charge of maintaining order, professionalism, work production, etc. They provide a system that produces correct work and does not like the change the status quo. These can be very beneficial when it comes to large corporations. I guess the answer here is, if you do not like the word “no” it might be time to change career paths.

  44. Michael A. Harris

    “Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no…”

    This point speaks to the necessity of “coming correct” as some like to say. Doing so decreases the probability of rejection. However, each bureaucrat speaks it’s own language. Without knowing said language, increases the probability of receiving a no. This can then conform a fragile mind into thinking and behaving in a way that mimics a bureau. Which then challenges the notion of never giving a bureaucrat a chance to say no. If a “no” is never received, how radical is the proposal? Change is not comfortable, meaning anything that is different than the norm is more favorable for the no. Potentially we need more no’s than yes’s, maybe?

  45. Roger S. Blackburn

    I think that we have hit the head on the nail with this article in regard to defining the American experiment. America is perhaps the most out of control bureaucracy that the world has ever known. We have created so many different departments within departments, that we have lost all communications with each; thus, none of the departments knows what the other departments are doing. A perfect example here, is the 911 World Trade Towers attack, in which the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and numerous Police Departments across the country were lost as to every other department’s plans and actions. Some of these different departments had failed to provide their personal intelligence analysis with the other departments, and what ensued was complete confusion. America’s work environment is extremely similar, with just as much confusion, if not more, as often times the work place is even less professional than is the government. Here, we can rest assured that all of this confusion is a direct result of not being aware of our environment; and if we are, not remaining aware of what we need to remain aware of. We are a forgetful society. Or, perhaps on some occasions, just plan lazy. Again, as I have often said, and continue to say: the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How … cannot be stressed enough.

  46. It is unavoidable for small businesses owners to work with bureaucracies. This article provides a great guideline — 1 rule and 3 options. The rule “Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no” is the goal, and no matter what the small business owners need to reach, because the “No” may mean they won’t be able to do the business or cannot conduct the projects to earn their profit, etc. The good thing is that the article author gives 3 options. The small business owners can decide to take which option by evaluating their knowledge about the requirements the bureaucracies list, the time and effort they would have to put, and the availability of other resources and cost, etc. If it is hard to decide, a comparison table may be helpful, i.e. list the options, and score the options against the owner’s ability, time, cost, availability of other resources, and success rate, etc.

    At last, it is grateful to have a business professor to write the blog to provide free advice to small business owners!

  47. Bureaucrats are all around us. They can bring both positive and negative qualities to businesses. Bureaucrats get the work done no matter what, so productivity can be at the expense of someone’s needs. In order to support employees in bureaucratic environments, it is important to create rules and regulations to effectively enforce laws and policies. I’ve always thought that bureaucracy kills leadership. From my personal experience, bureaucracy can be notorious for having too many restrictions to move an idea or task (in need of action) forward. Also, there can be times when there are too many levels of management approval to complete work or achieve a planned goal. However, this article exemplifies that bureaucracy is not necessarily a bad thing. In a bureaucratic work environment, their can be workarounds to overcome the bureaucratic mindset. I agree with the three workarounds: use a third party for support, work smart not hard with your team, and take advantage predictability. In a bureaucratic work environment, primary goals are set and employees normally work overly hard to achieve the desired outcome. Employees with this mindset can be useful for businesses looking for consistency and can result in enormous success. They just have to remember to take it easy sometimes. As long as an boundaries and regulations are established, each employee can benefit from job security and produce equal results that won’t eventually lead to low morale.

  48. I worked for someone like this once. He always accomplished the task but he did so at the expense of our needs. He was task driven for sure. He would always say “better to do it, get it done, and ask for forgiveness later than to ask for permission”. So we accomplished tasks in that manner. If we saw something that needed to be done, we attacked it head on. There weren’t time for feelings or wondering about the impact. We just did it. We were run dry, however. Focusing so much on productivity runs its course. We had little down time. Everything was a task and if you weren’t working, it seemed like you were missing opportunities or losing money. I don’t think being a bureaucrat has to be a negative thing. As with everything, find balance.

  49. This article was very interesting and relatable. Bureaucrats have a negative stereotype on society. From my personal experience, having a bureaucrat as a supervisor was not as negative as people think. Bureaucrats believe in hard work and the importance of productivity. I do believe it’s important to have a balance and everyone is different. People should not judge all bureaucrats based off of one experience and rumors from others. A bureaucracy environment is not for everyone. Choose who you work for wisely.

  50. This article has great tips on dealing with bureaucracy in the workplace. It is important for someone to know the people and groups responsible for approving projects. If you build a good relationship with the appropriate people, then it is easier to get tasks done. Especially in the government, it takes a long time to finish a project because it has to go through so many different hands. So, it is beneficial to know the players and keep tabs on the status of your projects. Hopefully, they will make it a priority to approve it quickly. If you are interested in promotion it is beneficial to understand the organizational structure. It will help you learn the job openings, team members and leaders. Hopefully, once you get to know people at your organization then you can slide into that open slot.

  51. The three options of Bureaucrat workarounds from the article seem to be like viable cures to many potential messes. The three workarounds are as follows: (1) Use a third party; (2) There are some Bureaucrats who can be inside champions for your project; (3) Or my favorite – simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg for forgiveness. These workarounds might be useful in many situations, in particular I can think of situations where these could have served useful in my previous office. Using a third party is probably the best option to eliminate potential bias, but can very likely work against you. The second option, having a bureaucrat who can be an inside champion for your project could help validate your work because of the closer working relationship. And lastly, if all else fails, push through with your plans regardless of the consequences. There have been a few times where my co-workers, and supervisors, and myself, have used the latter workaround – at the end of the work week and a few minutes before the end of closing. Sometimes allowing a few uninterrupted days to pass worked in our favor by providing some thinking time for our customers and clients to see plans from our perspective.

  52. This article brings up a lot of interesting points that I had not previously considered. Yoest shares the Number One Rule from “The Laws of the Public Policy Process is: Never Give a Bureaucrat a chance to say no. I went ahead and read the 44 other laws and the language is fairly militaristic (in the most casual sense). Here are some that stuck out to me:

    2. Don’t fire all your ammunition at once
    3. Don’t get mad except on purpose.

    Both indicate that you will get frustrated and that you need to be intentional. You cannot be reactive – or explosive – when something upsets you. What you say and how you say it matters.

    14. Remember the other side has troubles too
    17. Hire at least as many to the right of you as to the left of you

    There are several laws that suggest you should try to avoid biased opinions and actions. Even if someone isn’t on your “side” they shouldn’t be ignored. Balance is crucial. Listen to understand, not react. Get all sides of every story.

  53. When people put the laws and the rules first, it is meant to give order and create a platform to do business in a professional and accountable way. It serves as the boundary where many parties come together to do the job, and bureaucrats are there to enforce it. Bureaucracies have got a lot of negative connotations regarding productivity, smooth workflow, and effective communication. It seems that they are there to put a hurdle on the progress of every work, but instead, they are curtailing every detail of problems/faults/ from happening. Can speed be maintained to achieve the project schedule when all these procedural correctness are kept? Probably no, but we can find the balance and bring effectiveness in the workplace from all involved, by using the third option, from the three Bureaucrat workarounds: — simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact, and beg forgiveness.

  54. Elizabeth Cabral

    Overall, the article was interesting and brought up how easy it is to say no. People rather keep processes and policies the same than try a new idea or project. In business situations, saying no can inhibit innovation and new ideas. It is essential to promote a positive culture and new ideas. Although saying no at first is easier, it can cause long-term detriment to the organization’s growth. In the article, you discussed some ways to reduce and eliminate the easy “no.” The three options were using a third party, having an inside man, or do it and ask for forgiveness. As an inexperienced business person, I would be a little nervous about doing the initiative and then asking for forgiveness. I would probably want to have an inside man help me to sign off on my project. If I had more experience, I would try the third option of asking for forgiveness because I would have a better understanding of the decisions and the repercussions of those decisions. Personally, I like to hear about other people’s experiences and have someone else review the project with an open mind. Overall, I enjoyed reading your article, and I learned a lot about avoiding receiving a no to new initiatives and projects.

  55. Getting someone who is always saying “No” can be tough as a manager, but it gives them a chance to analyze the reason for why they said “No”. Bureaucrats sometimes give managers a better decision in the end because they can add a better perspective and also a third party. When a third party is brought in, it can alleviate the chance of a conflict arising after the decision is put into place. Conflicts could arise when there is a bureaucrat present because it could create a bad reaction to decisions that could spread to the other employees. Getting a third party helps decrease the chance of a conflict because the third party will make a reasonable and non-biased decision. Not only is it the managers responsibility to find a third party, but they need to make sure that it is a good one as well. A third party can not be a friend because that could lead to a chance of there being bias in the decision making process. The third party must be wisely chosen because a manager needs to make sure they do a good enough job analyzing the situation. Overall bureaucrats are going to be all throughout the workplace, so it is important to make sure the manager has a great third party to extinguish the chance of conflict arising.

  56. Christopher Beckman

    This article highlighted something that all managers and professional staffers should know and understand. To proceed with any initiative, the manager must have a champion, a solid case of justification, or a back door to gain approval. This matrix of decision-making is spot on and something I am certainly going to adopt for use. Not all bureaucrats are created equally, some are politicians looking to continue stepping along as far up the chain as possible. Others are appointed because they raised enough money for the party and serve in a position as a thank you. There is a group of rare and not commonly seen bureaucrats that is appointed for their competence and experience. In all my professional years I have only come across the last one on two occasions one was working in the Army and the other was at the White House, both were in special programs which thank goodness not just any old guy could do the job. They were both the kind of leaders that wanted to do right for the organization and worked to abide by the rules and policies in place but worked to update those rules and policies as appropriate.

  57. The most important thing I took away from this article was “Option 2”: finding a bureaucrat (or several) who can be inside champions for your projects. Having allies that can help push your project forward is always important- especially in business when there are plenty of “no’s” going around. Having someone besides yourself telling those around you how great or successful your project will be is how it will move forward. Having someone that you trust and that everyone around them trusts putting a stamp of approval on your work proves it’s potential and another layer of positivity to the project. It can be difficult presenting a project or trying to get hired in a place that may be unfamiliar or difficult, so finding a “champion” that can back up their work is an essential way to keep it moving forward. Finding this person will be difficult and it should not just be a yes man that agrees with everything you do, but someone that believes in your work and believes it will benefit others.

  58. This post made me laugh because of my own government position and I totally agree with the rule. The most helpful workaround in my experience is a combination of 1 (use a third party) and 2 (inside help). Namely: make friends on the inside. Identifying who has a habit of saying “no” and making friends with others is a great way to move projects forward. If I were to add a 4th workaround, it would be: choose your battles. Sometimes being okay with a “no” is the best thing if you want a “yes” later on.

  59. This article was somehow insightful! Throughout my career I have seen both types of bureaucracy, the efficient and helpful ones and the ones not that helpful and ready to create a problem out of anything they lay eyes on. Bureaucracy can be found in many organizations. If it is designed well, with clear rules, well-trained staff, and enough resources to keep it in place some might benefit from it. However, if it is implemented in a very tough way, without any of the previous mentioned items, it could be very harmful to the organizations; because there is a possibility of many processes be delay for lack of instructions, resources, rules, etc. Therefore, the way one implements and uses bureaucracy should restrict errors, thus, a bureaucrat will have no reasons to deny any requests that might come their way. Of course, even the company doing everything right, there is always that one person who can be difficult to deal with. I would like to say that one should be able to easily replace them. But this will depend on which type of bureaucrat they are dealing with.

  60. After reading this article, I was able to gain much perspective and insight throughout. I believe that this article states many great and important points that are essential for individuals to be aware of. I firmly believe that if bureaucracies put more time and effort on training employees well, motivating them to the best of their ability as well as focusing on bettering employees, it would be extremely beneficial and effective. I strongly feel that bureaucrats also need to focus on the delivery of information to individuals as that is very essential and necessary. In many cases when bureaucrats aren’t formed and set up correctly it can have a negative impact and be detrimental rather than beneficial.

  61. As a small business owner, I enjoyed reading this article and found it beneficial. I thought that it offered great advice on how to deal with bureaucrats. It was interesting to learn about Morton Blackwell, his leadership institute, and his writings, including The Laws of Public Policy Process and the first rule. While bureaucracy certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, it continues to be the prevailing business model today. One of the main reasons I enjoy owning my own business is that I get to be my own boss. I decide when I work, how I work, and what I work on; also, my business partner and I believe in empowering our staff to make great decisions and to take excellent care of our clients. This is not to say I will never join a bureaucratic organization; if I do, I surely will keep the One Rule, Three Options Matrix in mind when dealing with bureaucrats. The third option is my favorite too. Over my career, I have found that it is better to seek forgiveness rather than permission (as long as it is reasonable). I would much rather my staff seek forgiveness than ask for permission because we hire good people and trust them to do their jobs.

  62. This article obviously touches on the role bureaucracy and how to best handle those people that seem to create more problems than solutions. The one rule and three options approach to managing bureaucrats can apply to really any industry and any role when trying to accomplish something. I don’t have much business experience, but do have experience in coaching, so I often try and make connections to what I know. The rule of “never give a bureaucrat a chance to say no” can apply to any situation that requires the approval of a supervisor, boss, or somebody above you on the organizational hierarchy. This idea relates to completed staff work in the sense that an employee/manager should make sure their work is thorough and free from errors that would allow “bureaucrats” to question it or halt the work. The one option I find interesting is that of proceeding with an initiative and then asking for forgiveness later. I have used that option to get things done before in my professional career, some good outcomes, and others not so much. However, I do think that if a particular initiative/work is time sensitive and that the initiative/work has been at least checked by another person then sometimes proceeding with it may be the best option. There are positives and negatives to all three options, so it is important to assess the situation and then decide on which option would be best; there isn’t one option that works for every situation.

  63. The idea of never giving a bureaucrat the chance to say no is wonderful thought and should be attempted when possible. Taking the option of no out of an equation works wonders in decision making, project approval, and generally running a business how you want to. Using the “one rule, three options” matrix is something that occurs daily for myself and that works wonders. Personally, option 1 and 3 are the options that work best in my line of work. Project wouldn’t be approved by my superior? Submit it to another boss and see if they bite on the project. Making a decision isn’t “exactly” what my company wants but would situationally benefit my division? Let them know as I’m leaving the office Friday night and know I have 48 hours (and then some as emails build up over the weekend) to physically show why that decision was made. Knowing how to manage yourself, others, and the bureaucracy as a whole can go miles in how productive and effective your business can be.

  64. I found this article very relatable. I never understood why some people’s main goal in life is to simply go against every personal opinion, stance, or directions of other people. These are the people who make it the hardest to work day in and day out with, and who have the power to bring down an entire company with small actions. On the other hand, it is the people who come together and use the difference in opinion and perspective to engage in strong work that could not have been done unless differences were not only put aside but analyzed. The concept of multiple points of accountability is an extremely important method of work that prevents people from letting work or responsibility slip. In many work settings, getting work past someone who is either too busy to pay attention or doesn’t care enough to make it an issue is easy, but getting past multiple people on a team or group is hard. This makes it easier to weed out slackers or people that simply cannot keep up production with that of the entire team. This article provides a unique look on various members of a team or organization, that can be seen across all levels of business.

  65. Large organizations typically run simultaneous multiple systems and processes. Some are hidden, some are silos. For the most part, bureaucracies exist to maintain control or processes, encourage conformity, administer rules/regulations and lay out tasks through a chain of command. Bureaucracies can potentially get employees and managers to think through processes to go through the proper channels to get things accomplished, as in a system of checks and balances. With a substantial percentage of proactive staff a bureaucracy can actually work.

  66. No matter the size of a business, there are going to be problems that must be faced. And these problem must be fixed, whether that be on a Monday morning or 4:55pm on a Friday. It is important for a business owner to ensure there is someone in place to be able to ethically and legally handle these problems. It is interesting to see the solutions or as the author noted as “bureaucrat workarounds”. Most importantly, using a third party or finding your “go-to” bureaucrat. Using a third party allows for a non-biased opinion and answer to the problem. As the article states, “a good manager finds that third party” as it takes some of the monkeys off the boss’ back and onto the problem-solvers. Similarly to a third party, identifying the “go to” employee can help alleviate these issues for the boss and help find a solution. But bosses need make sure these third parties and “go to” bureaucrats have the right intentions – for the boss and company overall.

  67. Those three points are very insightful. I found that the second one, finding an inside bureaucrat to champion your project to be the most insightful. Often times when faced with a problem, the best solution is to have a third party help. However, finding that third party isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You have to understand the language that they speak and also test them to see if they would be the perfect fit. When seeking approval it is ideal to have all the issues or problems worked out before delivering it to the boss. Without that there is a high chance of rejection since they will see that not enough time was put into it.

  68. Antonia Hawkins-Johnson

    This article somewhat depicted Bureaucrat as the bad guy, however, this role helps to mandate and control processes and procedures being followed through. With many employees in an organization wanting to take shortcuts to complete their jobs, bureaucracy comes in handy to help with staying the task. It keeps the riff raff down in any organization with a clear chain of command with strict regulations, which can be good and bad. However, bureaucracy may not encourage professional growth.

  69. I’m sure like many others, when first hearing the word bureaucrats or bureaucracy a positive thought doesn’t always come to mind. However, over time I have learned that is not the case. Bureaucracy has many benefits when it comes to working within an organization. It can implement a work environment that is fair and enforce company rules creating a positive work environment. A bureaucrat however, has to be accepted by all individuals within the workplace. If they are constantly going around to trying to manage others and step outside of their scope, negative impacts will be found. Having the opposite impact originally planned.
    It is likely bureaucrats were given a bad name because of how we see them on a larger scale. In particularly, when it comes to politics. Depending on what side you fall on and what your beliefs are following an individual is pushing an agenda you are against will be hard to get on board with.

  70. Bureaucracy…most of the time, this connotes negativity especially when used to describe an organization. You have an urgent project that you cannot begin its implementation because there were a lot of bureaucracies within the departments. They will need you to fill out forms after forms, secure signatories and record all your steps from 1 to n before it can move forward to the next department. They were more concerned of you following their processes and procedures than thinking of the effects of delaying your project.

    Furthermore, you’ll hear these bureaucrats say, ‘well, this was how we used to do it,’ or ‘ ’we’ are the enforcers so it is imperative for you to follow it.’ There really are some that are not a fan of change, especially if it affects their daily routines and as per the author’s advice on how to manage them? His simple answer was ‘Don’t!’

    Of course, there will be a lot of frustrations especially when you deal with time and resources but, I guess, you’ll need to see the brighter side of it. As you navigate and understand why they put their policies and procedures in place (to which some may really be ridiculous), you will learn to accept and adjust your thinking about the organization. Also, try to look at them as a person and not as a bureaucrat that made your life as hard as you can think of. Who knows, they may be able to help you navigate on your stuffs.

    Nevertheless, at the end of the day these policies and procedures are not going away and all you can do is pack a bunch of patience with you.

    And the 4:55pm on a Friday option? Good luck with that!

  71. Bureaucracy, like it or not, is necessary of all effective organizations. As much as it may be difficult to work with bureaucrats and the process may be frustrating time I think the general rule laid out here works- limit the opportunities for bureaucrats to say no. The best outcome here is for policies to be followed but for innovation to to be stopped.

    Working around at 4:55pm on a Friday, eh, a bit trickier ha!

  72. Geraldinne Silva Sanchez

    Before reading this article, I had a completely different idea of the meaning of bureaucracy. Now, I understand that it could be both efficient and inefficient. It could be used to praise someone who understands the rules and maintains order and authority. Good bureaucrats have good judgment and skills to lead a team towards the company’s goals. Yet, one of its main flaws is that having strict rules can eliminate the freedom to act by their common sense. Divergent thinking can be useful as well. Exploring new ideas can create or solve unusual challenges. In my opinion, bureaucracies could be very helpful if they provide a well-structured environment. The first workaround “use a third party” could be the best option to eliminate potential bias decisions. An outside opinion could alleviate the chance of conflict arousal. It is important to always pick your team carefully!!

  73. I found this article interesting as it refers to bureaucrats within the scope of the business world. Having had the opportunity to work from home, thanks to COVID, I have found myself listening to more and more of my husband’s conference calls. After a particularly long one, he went on a tirade about how the work this “working committee” was doing could have been done in less than three hours if he just did the work himself with one other person. Instead, six of them had been hammering out a fifty-question document for their government contracts for over three weeks. Making small changes to words and phrasing. “Why don’t you and Susan just finish it?”, I ask him. His answer – “because if we all do it together no one person is responsible if we fail to ask the right security questions.” While it could be construed that these leaders are using each other to eliminate blame, I argue that they are doing it to create a shared ownership. If they all own this questionnaire, then they all will use it, creating consistency within all divisions of their federal contracts. Bureaucrats, even in the business world, can be the key to getting the job done – even if it does take three times as long to do it.

  74. Berhanu Sinamo DEBOCH

    I find the article is useful and it gives me additional knowledge about One Rule, Three Options Matrix for managing bureaucracy in the small business enterprises. As we know, bureaucracy is a common and vital component in our everyday lives but it plays a great role in the small business organizations. Most of the time some officials in the management of small business are linked to bureaucracy, which is defined as the concentration of managerial power where rules and procedures are precisely defined. As structure of the organization, the bureaucracy can be an efficient means of managing business resources, according to Max Weber, social scientist and author of “Theory of Social and Economic Organization.”

    The small business can operate under rules that managers create as they go along and does not necessarily need a written set of policies. The set of formal rules is one of the key characteristics of bureaucracy. Therefore, governments, private organizations and other stake holders are responsible to manage the bureaucracy in the small business. However, the experience of One Rule, Three Options Matrix analysis is useful to identify and manage bureaucracies in small business.

  75. Danielle Waldschmidt

    I have frequently thought one of the reasons I’ve been successful is because I know what resources (staff, technology, efficiencies, etc.) I am able to use. I have found it is helpful to know how to deal with all kinds of situations. This article outlined some resources that can be used to deal with a bureaucrat. I would agree it is important to not deal with a bureaucrat head on and the items outlined are helpful to dealing with the challenges of bureaucrats. When using these methods how long before they catch on? If they do catch on, do they make changes to prevent them from happening or just develop a dislike for the process? If they don’t fight it does that mean it really didn’t matter in the first place? These are powerful tools, use wisely. Also, know what tools are available, are you going to be granted forgiveness? Many can play games, put yourself in a situation to be successful. I hope to continue to develop my skills to deal with these types of difficult situations. Practice seems to have worked for me and I will continue to practice.

  76. This article is an very different take and look at bureaucraties. I do not have a lot of knowledge prior to this aritcle about bureaucrats and their impact on businesses. The 3 options I think can be relatable to different people in different ways. I personally enjoyed option 3 of sending out what you need to get done and initiate it than ask for what you need after. This does not always work out in a persons favor but in certain situations where it ends up successful it would be positive.

  77. A bureaucrat is someone that can see the logical things that others in the company may miss when looking at the details. In my experience the bureaucrat is the one that no-one likes going to because they are usually tight with the pursestrings and do not allow for much foolery. Working for a small business owner in the past, I think of the Controller that we had. A bureaucrat to the t, the Controller was part of every decision and call that happened in the conglomerate of restaurants. There was not two pennies that were not scrutinized in the process. But at the end of the day, this person saved the company many dollars and earned their keep. There was no winning over the employee base but there was certainly job-security. There was always the potential workaround. My boss in the restaurant was a shoe-in for the bureaucrat’s good side. So whenever we needed anything, we would send him in and there was a 40/60 chance that we would get the item or situation decided in our favor but that was certainly better than the 2/98 chance that we had previously.

  78. The word bureaucrat, as this article strongly suggests, tends to carry a negative connotation; in fact, it’s even wormed itself into the google dictionary definition as, “an official in a government department, in particular one perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people’s needs.” Procedures are normally created out of necessity, for valid reasons; when followed with common-sense and taken in the context for which they were created, they can help a business run smoothly. Those who wrote and enforce them in that light can be the (rare) celebrated bureaucrat. By the same token, rules made just for the sake of making rules, without context or flexibility, can deter progress, create frustration, and cause a loss in resources. When a bureaucrat starts ignoring the goal, and hides behind or blindly enforces procedures to the ultimate detriment of the company, they earn the depreciative definition above. I consider these individuals, or bureaucrats, as the “robot” people – unable to speak or act beyond the original “code” they memorized. When dealing with the latter type of bureaucrat, it’s often better to follow the proverb, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” which corresponds to the article’s 3rd workaround.

  79. Naga sankar Devineni

    Bureaucrats are all around us. They can bring both positive and negative qualities to businesses. Bureaucrats get the work done no matter what, so efficiency can be at the cost of someone’s needs. In arrange to back representatives in bureaucratic situations, it is critical to form rules and directions to successfully uphold laws and approaches. I’ve continuously thought that bureaucracy slaughters authority. From my individual involvement, bureaucracy can be infamous for having as well numerous limitations to move a thought or assignment (in require of activity) forward. Too, there can be times when there are as well numerous levels of administration endorsement to total work or accomplish an arranged objective. Be that as it may, this article embodies that bureaucracy isn’t fundamentally a terrible thing. In a bureaucratic work environment, there can be workarounds to overcome the bureaucratic mentality. I concur with the three workarounds: utilize a third party for back, work keen not difficult along with your group, and take advantage of consistency.

  80. This was definitely an interesting article to read. In my young professional career thus far, I haven’t had much experience working in a company let alone a company that has a bureaucracy. I think there is something to be said for leaders who listen to their people and building up small businesses. As stated in the article, you never want to be told no. Being told no is a form of defeat and small companies should empower employees. Another important quality is being self-aware and understanding your strengths and what you can bring to a company. With that, I think it ties into one of the 3 workarounds for Bureaucrats. If you know what you are good at and confident, I believe it is better to ask for forgiveness. Confidence is half the battle in doing something and if you can convince the people around you that you know what you are doing, most people won’t question you and will gain more respect. On the other hand, there is also something about a boss, who is appointed this leadership roles, sharing expectations is normal. Sports teams have leaders, captains or coaches and trust a leader. I think this is true to a degree in having a leader figure, but there has to be a balance.

  81. Dealing with Bureaucrats is no easy feat. The numbers of ways they can derail or impede a project couldn’t be counted by hand and most certain should not be listed. However like you wrote in your article finding the right one can be an asset to your cause. There’s a reason why no one like bureaucrats and their red tape, and one reason in particular is that of the one you listed in your article. For many their favorite word is “no”, no is a far more simple and easy response than yes. No can remove any future problems while “yes” a lead to many problems, it is your job as the non-bureaucrat to distract said bureaucrats from the potential problems and reassure them as to why your proposal is ok to back. Looking at my own work situation, I will mostly have to deal with more recruiting ideas or game day ideas being taped off due to potential problems that could occur more than anything else. For example, one of my bosses and myself came to our advancement lead about possible setting up a game-day lounge for fans that were willing to pay for a nicer game day experience. Both my boss and I priced out and mapped out how and where this lounge could be set up and essentially did a lot of the ground work for this idea to potentially float, however due to the red tape that can come from these sort of meetings we were shot down due to our position in our athletics department and financial stake. Ultimately it just showed my boss and me how we must improve our pitch the next time we come to talk with the advancement team.

  82. Dealing with bureaucrats can be frustrating. The article is very interesting to ready and gives some good recommendations about how to manage bureaucrats as a small business owner. In my lifetime, I have seen people trying to make a short cut just to avoid work. For a business to grow the owner must find people who are ready to follow the process. As the article says, you never want to be told no. When people you are leading start saying no to your judgements, that’s not a good sign and you must not let that happen because it would have a negative effect to your business. I think bureaucracy could make a positive impact if it properly designed and can cause damage to the organization if is not well structure. If the bureaucracy is well established, it could have members who are well trained and motivated to follow the process and help the organization move forward with positive judgement.

  83. Bureaucracy can be an advantage and disadvantage. It can make a business a better place to work by protecting employees from poor employment practices and health and safety hazards. When employees are covered by the same workplace policies, the system becomes fair for all employees. On the other hand, bureaucratic workplace environments are often strict and function like a machine. Many levels of management exist in this type of workplace environment, and change can often be slow. Ideally, in a bureaucratic environment, the structure of the workplace is based on rational rules that are never influenced by interpersonal relationships. However, these type of work environments are often impersonal and generate a lot of red tape, thus slowing down its ability to provide a service to the public.

  84. likith sai srinivas yella

    i truly agreed with the article and the point have listed. we all have screamed sometime when we need to get the work done, but it doesn’t mean that we have failed. being hard and sometime the work in rule needs to be done not just government entities i believe anywhere when you run the team or lead. that’s why the beauty when accomplishing a task it is so perfect, just because being hard and same time humble , respectful leader would be better call for a bureaucrat even it is not the nature.

  85. The article discusses bureaucracies and how to confront these types of people who work within your organization. As the author points out (and something I am all too much familiar with) that bureaucracies are essentially designed for someone to always say NO. To counteract this stalemate of always saying NO, the author lays out three points in confronting this bureaucratic mess. First, look into seeing about a third party and letting this group deal with whatever problem is for your organization. Second, I.D. someone who can champion your project. I found this tip to be the most productive and helpful. Even in the behemoth of a bureaucracy, there can be people who work really hard and can be very productive. This tip would be a good guideline to follow even if one were working in a small business. Identifying a “champion” can and is necessary for the company to flourish overall. The third point is giving someone a task on a Friday right before they go home to measure their dedication. I think anyone who has an employee who isn’t producing enough would love to do this more often. These guidelines could help you as try to tackle the problems of beaurcracy and help run a more efficient project.

  86. This article was interesting to read because of the viewpoint taken. Bureaucracies are displayed as being wrong and wanting to say no; however, they can be beneficial in the long run. In the article it talks about the bureaucracies workaround which takes three main points and explains how it can help with businesses. Using a third party is helpful when you want to partner with someone who can accomplish the goal effortlessly or stay in the shadows as you help someone achieve their task. Next, there are bureaucracies that can be that friendly face in a crowd of unknown people. When finding someone who can help you, it’s important to understand what to look for and ask in order to ensure the same level of values and beliefs are being shared. Take into consideration what might interest someone and how they could benefit from the plan or idea. Lastly, there is the option to continue to do the job at hand and then seek for guidance and understanding after the fact. This is the last resort, especially if a person doesn’t want anything to do with the overall goal or plan. In conclusion, this article was enlightening and made very good points on bureaucracies in business.

  87. Colleen McLaughlin

    A beaurcrat is someone who is always concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of others’ needs. People generally do not get along with said beauracrat because they are usually the bearer of bad news. Bureaucratic organizations have an organizational chart for each department that delegates responsibilities and functions. They also establish a protocol for decision making.

  88. ngoltoingar chantal bayor

    It is true that” in the management of any small business, the business owner must deal with bureaucracies. It might be your own. It might be someone else’s”. Bureaucracy may bring values of rationality, excellent organization, and control. But is not always suitable for the functioning of the modern enterprise. I agree with Max Weber when he writes the theory of bureaucracy as a scientific management approach, his main interest is to be egalitarian, discarding individual considerations. Indeed, the administration provides rules that are applied to each employee from the sole point of view of his function. The third point in the article states it well 3) Or my favorite — simply proceed with your initiative, process the paperwork after the fact and beg forgiveness. At 4:55pm. Friday’s are best”. Bureaucracy is not as good as we think for modern business.

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