Bureaucracy and Outsourcing—is it time for a new paradigm?

September 12th, 2007 by k8gu Leave a reply »

I was reading E. Marla Felcher’s essay on Slate about making toys safer.  She mentions a staggering statistic on defective toys: some 76% of recalls in the past twenty years have been attributed to “design flaws.”  Perhaps toy designers should read Donald A. Norman’s The Psychology of Everyday Things.  But, the part of the essay that got my attention was her discussion of difficulty of enforcement.  This, essentially, is the difficulty with anything that is organized as a bureaucracy.

We know from high school government class that a bureaucracy is the “most efficient means to manage a large group of people.”  However, the one thing that’s not often mentioned is the characteristic of bureaucracies that gives them such a bad reputation: it’s hard to get to the bottom of things.  Multi-national corporations and militaries are built on the same bureaucratic structures.  These structures are notoriously difficult to penetrate and affect from outside—is an action criminal or just following orders?

With a bureaucracy, we have “efficiency,” but at what cost?  Perhaps outsourcing woes are a sign of things to come.  Is it time for a new paradigm?