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Bureaucracy: Meaning, Examples & How To Tackle It

Bureaucracy: Meaning, Examples & How To Tackle It

Bureaucracy,  you may have heard the word often. For example when it concerns ‘bureaucracy in healthcare’ or bureaucracy in distant countries. Get a signature there, hand it in again and start over because appendix 57-1c was not included… Read along for an exploration of bureaucracy…

What is bureaucracy? A definition … gives the following definition of bureaucracy:

Atmosphere of slowness and rigidity due to too many complicated rules and too great a power of civil servants.

And the synonyms of bureaucracy? Overhead & civil service

While overhead is not an official synonym of bureaucracy , these terms have a lot in common:

What does overhead mean?

Overhead: non-productive personnel

Now let’s take the definition from Wikipedia:

The overhead or fixed costs is the part of a budget that an organization spends on its own organization. It is a measure of the efficiency of an organization. Money that an organization spends on itself does not benefit the goals of this organization.

Okay! And for completion sake, the definition of the dictionary:

The overhead n. (m.) Verdict: [‘ovərhɛ: t]  operating costs that are not directly related to production.

Does government have anything to do with bureacracy?

And what about the word ‘government’? Although government does not mean the same as overhead, the dictionary does indicate civil service as a synonym for bureaucracy:

1) Civil Service 2) Burocratism 5) Rule of Civil Servants.

Antonym to Bureaucracy: Adhocracy

The opposite of bureaucracy is adhocracy. Examples of adhocracy are small, flexible project teams or groups that often work without an extensive formal structure. There are few formalities that complicate the work.

How can you create more adhocracy in your organization? Let’s take a look at the three essential tips …

Tip 1 – How can you break through bureaucracy? Ask persistent questions

If you work in (or with) a large company, it can be tempting to blame bureaucracy – namely, the size of the company and the excessive procedures – for the lack of results and / or efficiency. But the real culprit is often our own inability to navigate it.

The bureaucracy is like the icy surface that shimmers over an icy ocean. Small cracks can provide enough progress for a ship to move on. If you sit still, you run the risk of getting stuck. But if you break the ice gradually, you can move on.

Instead of surrendering to the bureaucracy, you take it upon yourself to break it . In organizations with bureaucracy, we can rely on a strong weapon: the persistent demand. The metamodel is a powerful guide to this.

Try to break the bureaucratic ice with questions such as:

  • “Why does it feel like we have the same meeting and discussion over and over, over and over?
  • “Why don’t we just try it out and see what happens?
  • “What (or who) gets in the way of making a decision?
  • “When exactly will we have a definitive answer to this?”

Tip 2 – Lead things forward with decisions

You don’t have to be the boss to ask these questions. On the contrary, they are best asked by the people in charge of the operations and the execution.

At a successful company in America, an employee was once asked about the secret to the company’s rapid progress and innovation force. “I make decisions for my bosses,” he  said. “You can not just sit there and let people think about things, you have to make decisions to take .

Tip 3 – In short: take the lead and move things forward

In short: get it moving!

  • Be the one to ask the annoying questions.
  • Don’t try to get everyone to agree.
  • Put people in their place.
  • Encourage people to share their concerns.
  • If there is any uncertainty about the next step, call it out!

To your success!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!