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Red tape, the symbol of bureaucracy comes in several forms in the corporates. I talked about ‘culture’ in the last post. Here, we see some more forms.

Silos – are a common item in private corporates also. Silo forms when the Head of a Function decides that he, his function, and his team shall allow restricted access to other functions. This may not be required by the organization, or the situation therein, but it evolves from an attitude of asserting personal authority. What happens then goes like this

  • Marketing Manager requires some important information from Finance department, both work in silos. The MM shall forward the request to her/his boss, the Director Marketing
  • Director Marketing forwards the request to Director Finance
  • Director Finance assigns it to his concerned manager for working
  • Assigned manager works and sends the report back to Director Finance
  • Director Finance forwards it to Director Marketing
  • Director Marketing forwards it to Marketing Manager
  • The process takes three days, if done urgently: one week, if done normally

Sounds silly? Yes, it is. But it happens in organizations every day.

The better alternative will go like this if there are no silos.

  • Marketing Manager asks Finance Manager for the required information
  • Finance Manager replies to Marketing Manager
  • The job is done in few hours, or maximum in a day if the bulk of information is more.

Sounds good? But it is much less practiced. Bureaucracy/red tape comes in the way.

Silos not only slow down the pace of work, but they are also a huge source of conflicts, politics, leg pulling, and infighting. Even then, silos are formed, nurtured, and thrive in the corporates.

SOPs – Covid19 has made the word SOP known to everyone. Organizations also have many SOPs, though it varies greatly from one organization to the other. Functions such as Production, and Quality also have elaborate SOPs. These are critical for the integrity of processes leading to final products. Industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, banking, and precision products have elaborate and stringent SOPs. Many of these are enforced by the regulators also. Wherever a regulator is involved, the SOPs shall be enforced. As mentioned earlier, SOPs ensure that rules are followed without deviation.

While SOPs are critical for integrity of processes, they also become a great source of bureaucracy. Workflow is slowed and stalled on the pretext of SOPs. Documentation is asked again and again to fulfill the actual and perceived requirements.

SOPs add more to bureaucracy in other functions such as procurement, marketing, business development, and distribution.

Disengagement – of employees is another reason for bureaucracy. Disengaged employees find creative ways of delaying work assigned to them. I have seen many such employees in corporates who make it mandatory upon themselves to not expedite things. They will huff and puff and duck under pressure but will not change. Ironically, they keep surviving also.


Bureaucracy shall not be eliminated from the corporates but may be minimized by taking these measures.

  • Measure performance, not by process, but by outcome. The typical process-oriented person shall tell stories about their efforts, but the results would not match. Many corporates have a performance management system in place. KPIs are quite popular. KPIs setting should be done carefully with the outcome in mind. It is a one-time-in-a-year exercise and should get enough attention and focus to make verifiable, result-focused KPIs.
  • Do Climate survey. Put your ear to the ground to know what is happening. Office grapevine is also a good source of knowing the pulse. It will help you to gauge the engagement level of employees, and if it is not good, steps should be taken to change the level.
  • Promote non-hierarchical, flat organization. The more cadres are introduced, the more it promotes bureaucracy. Too many people are required to sign documents and make recommendations to get the final decision made. Every cadre tries to show their value addition by adding another something which becomes the cause for delay.
  • Make and keep SOPs simple and practical. Unless prescribed by the regulator, the procedures must be simple. Simple SOPs are more likely to be followed and implemented and are less likely to become impediment.
  • Actively fight silos. Senior management must keep watch on this aspect and take active steps to discourage silo making. The management team should be engaged in social meetups also to promote harmony and relations.
  • Make cross-functional teams. These teams engage the staffs of multiple departments and encourage them to work together. When lower cadres work together without seniors, they give more space to each other.

Bureaucracy in private corporates is a common problem which is the cause of heartburn, disengagement, demotivation, and discontentment among staff, and poor customer service for clients. It is imperative to keep it at bay as much as possible.


Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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