9 December 2009

A comment on "PMOs and Sysiphus" by Randy Englund

Bureaucracy is a tool used to control.

It controls change and controls compliance with defined standards and it tries to control how people do thier jobs.  Bureacracy is by it's nature fairly change resistant.

When Randy Englund uses Lewin's rubber band metaphor to describe how change only lasts as long as the tension is maintained, I found myself agreeing with reservations.

The rubber band story in the blog post is about maintaining the tension, from an organised state holding back from a snap return to dissolute.  In particular Randy has a call to action to project professionals; that our projects goals are secondary to something larger - the organisation's ever growing maturity and capability.

What are my reservations? I think that thee are plenty of techniques and tools to help us guide people through change, and that things, when managed well, will not snap back like a stretched rubber band.  But that last sentence is loaded, so it doesn't apply to every scenario.

Planning and executing change are important.  But equally important is nurturing it.


  1. Remember the Jack Welch quote. Bureaucracy protects the organization from the incompetent.

    His approach was to remove the bureaucracy and expose the incompetent. Not all orgs have that luxury.

  2. True, and applying structures and controls is appropriate at a certain point and in certain contexts; such as when an organisation grows beyond a certain size and the capability of the leadership can't keep up with the needs of the people.

    But many of the organisations I see have grown past that and are now ossifying. They need to become more flexible to enable their people to get things done cheaper and faster, and they need to loosen some of the controls.

    It's not a simple issue, especially when you talk about governement, as one of the (designed) reasons there is a bureacracy is to slow down and limit the potential for the elected amateurs for ruining the state.