Bureaucracy evolves as a defensive mechanism. As an organization acquires greater assets and reputation, it makes sense to implement procedures to protect them.

If you work in a hospital, there is a long list of things that need to be checked off before the scalpel comes out. When the stakes are high and making a mistake is easy, it's worth sacrificing efficiency.

If you're operating on a patient's right leg, how do you know if it's your right or your patient's right? If two Jane Smith's are scheduled on the same day, which one needs the lung transplant and which one is getting her gall bladder removed? And what happens when the assistant gets distracted by an emergency and forgets to swap out the surgery plan from the previous operation?

For those who work in this kind of environment, drawing an 'X' on the limb that needs amputating, handing out wristbands, and asking the patient for their date of birth a third time are essential practices.

There's a cost, however, to adding this kind of bureaucracy when it's not necessary.

Bureaucracy feels safe, because it is.

But if the resulting inefficiency steals precious time from the things that matter most, suppresses staff morale, and makes you less nimble in a constantly changing world, it might be time to reconsider your process.


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