There is a moment, realistically a period of time, when bureaucracy changes from a supporting act to the main show. For an idea or innovation to scale there is a need for structure, consistent processes, decision rights, and so on to be added. Add this too early or in too large a quantity and you’ll kill the idea. Add too little also kills the idea but usually through burning out people.
The point of the structure (aka bureaucracy) is to support the idea or innovation. It is subservient to the purpose. Or better put, it is there to help bring the idea to the world. At this point in the idea lifecycle, bureaucracy isn’t a term that is used. Eventually, assuming the idea/innovation continues to scale, we start to hear rumours of the term ‘bureaucracy’.
The moment has arrived.
The shift that occurs is subtle at first, but then it’s undeniable. Conversations shift from the idea and changing the world to ‘ensuring the long term survival of the company/organisation/charity’. At this point, bureaucracy moves to centre stage. No longer content to be a supporting act, it takes over the main stage pushing even purpose behind it. In most cases, we see bureaucracy (the self perservation of the organisation) wrestling with the organisation’s purpose.
Some see the main stage as a dance floor, others see a boxing ring. What is on your main stage?