If you work in an entrenched bureaucracy and are just trying to survive, don’t be chum. Avoid swimming in bureaucrat-infested waters.
Where are bureaucrats most dangerous?
In meetings, bureaucrats are as dangerous as sharks in water.
Bureaucrats love “weekly checkpoint and status meetings,” for example. If you are forced to attend these types of meetings, consider whether it would be appropriate to recommend some changes to the meeting structure.
One example: I’m a huge fan of Basecamp, which is a simple, collaborative system that makes it easy for everyone to be updated all of the time, reducing the need for in-person checkpoints. Conversations can be asynchronous, so they tend to progress more quickly and don’t have forced beginnings and endings like meetings do. Could you do your updates through a system like this as an alternative to weekly meetings?
If you must do the meetings, you may be able to still make the waters less friendly to the bureaucrats. Design thinking
offers some great techniques for managing conversations so they stay productive and helping people build on the ideas of others rather than tearing them down.
I do not believe meetings are evil, and I do not believe bureaucrats are evil, but I do believe bureaucrats in status meetings are as dangerous as sharks in water.
So if you want to stay safe, change the way your meetings are structured to make them less comfortable for bureaucrats!
1) They wither because they don't know how to survive outside of meetings. It is amazing how after years of spending all of your corporate days in meetings you actually forget how to do real work.
2) (and this is beautiful to witness) They evolve. They learn to be a part of productive meetings. They collaborate with people outside of meetings. They become active contributors, solving problems and exploring opportunities.
There are few greater rewards than watching a former bureaucrat become a productive member of your corporate society.
When people start seeing your success eliminating status meetings, they may even begin to try it on their own!