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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 21 June 2013

RIP Michel Crozier

I really am an ignorant fellow. I'm ashamed to confess that I had simply assumed that Michel Crozier had gone to meet his maker quite some time ago. Apparently not and there is a nice obituary in today's Guardian. I imagine he is little read today (but maybe I'm just compounding my ignorance). What I can say is that reading The Bureaucratic Phenomena almost 30 years ago gave me one of those epiphanies such as one rarely experiences on reading an academic book these days. Suddenly it all made sense. 

We spend most of our lives living in organizations. These organizations have formal rules, but they also have informal conventions. The structure of the organization is not just what is written down in the organization chart. Sometimes the formal structure creates incentives and reinforces behaviour that is highly dysfunctional. The structure is created by the actors and the actors respond to the incentives and opportunities that the structure affords them. For various reasons niches in the structure exist that can give people surprising amounts of power. All the time politics and power are lurking, sometimes underpinning, sometimes subverting both formal and substantive rationality. What comes out of all of this is not necessarily what anyone intended and may have nothing to do with what everyone believes the mission of the organization to be.

I've never picked up The Bureaucratic Phenomena again. I daren't. It's a fond memory, one of those books that are part of a personal foundational myth. I'm frightened that if I read it now it would turn to ashes and dust.

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