A new debate about bureaucracy is desperately needed when we pause to consider the fundamental social shifts we are observing at the moment. I found a new and interesting blog on Business Week today under the heading of "Business At Work, Negotiating Bureaucracy." The title of the post, The Mechanistic Mindset and Bureaucracy pulled me in.
I firmly agree with all that John says, with the exception of two little things. Experience suggests that John suffers from a bit of wishful thinking when he says "And when organizations operate with a clear and well-aligned purpose, then they become great and influential." This is most highly desirable, but I'm afraid, impractical in the real world. The public sector in general, and all Government organizations in particular, operate with the utmost clarity and hundreds of years of as well-aligned purpose as any human endeavor. A career spent in public service is a calling, without the hope of the remunerations of our private sector partners. But do we, individually or collectively, consider public service to be great and influential. Unfortunately not. There are several disciplines of academic work that substantiate our perceptions on this paradox, and enough evidence to argue on any side.
John is spot on about unlearning, except where he says that "Unlearning is forgetting." If we forget as we unlearn, we lose sight of our purpose and values and reasons for our service, falling back into the paradox that a Mechanistic Mindset is blind to.