The majority of companies are way too bureaucratic and hierarchical for their own good. They don’t use the assets and capabilities that they have effectively and are failing to achieve their true potential. 

In fact, based on the work of Gary Hamel of the London Business School, the waste that these inefficiencies create could be costing US companies at least $3 trillion. UK companies are no different.


Now I don’t have a problem with hierarchy as a concept, after all I did much of my early leadership and management training in the military. Nor do I dislike bureaucracy – I’m a big believer in a systems-view of organisations and see process as a useful tool for supporting people to achieve together.

“We have far too much bureaucracy and …. we’ve forgotten the purpose of it”

It’s not the fact that hierarchies exist, but the way that power is used, information flows and people behave within them that often stops them delivering what’s required. It’s the fact that we have far too much bureaucracy and that we’ve forgotten the purpose of it.


The leaders that I speak to understand this challenge, but it can be difficult to resist the default practices which abound and difficult to get team members to step outside their comfort zone to help you create something that works better. This can result in even start-up businesses, where leaders have set out to get very different results and create a very different internal culture, building operating models which will inhibit their ability to achieve either.

Do something different

This need to do something different is not a new idea. More than fifty years ago Warren Bennis, management scholar and leadership expert, predicted that humanity would soon be working in “adaptive-organic structures” rather than mechanistic ones. Whilst a few notable companies are actively moving towards that, most are not.

Technology enables it, people are ready for it and the waste of human potential in organisations has to stop.

It’s time we got on with it. Technology enables it, people are ready for it and the waste of human potential in organisations has to stop.

In 2020 I’m going to be focusing down on supporting leaders to create new ways of working in their businesses and help realise the potential of the assets they hold. I’ll be sharing more about how to do that over the course of the year. If you can’t wait and want to know more now, get in touch.