What are the signs that an organization has become a bureaucracy?
The first is excessive PowerPoint. Every organization should ban PowerPoint. But it has become particularly endemic in the military. The fact that the new Defense secretary has banned PowerPoint from some senior briefings is a step in the right direction.
Another issue is endless red tape. Red tape is bad not just in itself, but because it quickly breeds a culture of corruption and sloppiness. Unchecked, the Red Tape Machine produces so many rules that it becomes simply impossible to comply with all of them. But the real problem comes then: Once everyone gets into the habit of not following the rules, no matter how justifiably, the culture changes. Once people are able to rationalize not following the rules — at first, very justifiably, they only stop following the bad rules, but then they are on a slippery slope — they grow to internalize an attitude of contempt for all rules. “Everyone else is doing it.”
Is this going on in the U.S. military? The signs are increasingly there, as a damning study by Army War College professors reveals.