Bureaucracy sucks. It ain’t going anywhere.

Ted Bauer
4 min readMay 19, 2022

We’ve had some research in the past that — despite the supposed era of innovation — bureaucracy is actually expanding in most companies, and now we’re going to discuss some additional research that bureaucratic management is too. People from The Management Innovation Exchange polled 7,000+ Harvard Business Review readers about their organizations with regard to bureaucratic management. Some of the big numbers upfront include:

For each completed survey, we calculated an overall BMI score by aggregating responses across seven categories of bureaucratic drag: bloat, friction, insularity, disempowerment, risk aversion, inertia, and politicking. We computed an overall BMI based on scale of 20 to 100, based on answers to the first twenty questions of the survey. On our scale, a score of 60 represents a moderate degree of bureaucratic drag, while anything less than 40 indicates a relative absence of bureaucracy. Of the responses tallied, 64% reported a BMI of more than 70, while less than 1% had a BMI under 40. Not surprisingly, BMI scores were correlated with organizational size. The average BMI for companies with more than 5,000 employees was 75. Of the respondents who reported a BMI of less than 40, three-fourths worked in organizations with fewer than 100 employees. This confirms what most of us have long suspected: large companies suffer from managerial diseconomies of scale.

So 64% of these respondents are working in overly bureaucratic places, especially as the size of the organization rises. Probably not too surprising, right? Indeed. But I think what we often miss about this discussion is the reason behind it.

Debunking the first bureaucratic management myth

It is supposedly an innovative, entrepreneurial time — but in reality it’s not. Companies are becoming increasingly bureaucratic, to the point that many companies are seeing 9–14 levels between the top (C-Suite) and the rank-and-file workers. That’s a lot of bureaucratic management. We think it’s a more innovative time because most business publications write about/use examples from Silicon Valley or Boston or Seattle, and those “tech hubs” are doing more innovative things here and there, sure. Most companies are plodding along the same way they always have, even though they’re telling…

Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.