Struggling Against the Invisible Bureaucracy™

In a world of increasing stakeholder expectations and decreasing resources, aggressive cost cutting programs have run their course. “Where do you turn next?” asks Mark Bodnarczuk, Executive Director of the Breckenridge Institute®. Increasing a company’s revenues and gross margins, and knowing where (and how) to reduce costs without negatively impacting customer satisfaction, employee productivity and morale, or business processes that are working effectively requires a precise and systematic understanding of exactly what culture is and how it works in organizations.

Most managers struggle against the flow of overly complex structures and systems and are often frustrated by an invisible force that undermines their attempts to affect positive change. Their instincts tell them that the organization’s culture and people are preventing them from getting the results they want, but “culture” remains one of the least understood aspects of organizational life. “Organizational culture often acts like an Invisible Bureaucracy™ that frustrates and undermines effective business performance,” Bodnarczuk comments. “In fact, what many managers find most frustrating is that although they have little or no control over changing the ineffective structures and systems of the larger organization within which their work-group is embedded, they are still held accountable for delivering on commitments and goals.”

Defining culture in a more precise and systematic way enables us to better understand what the Invisible Bureaucracy™ is and how it works. More specifically, organizational culture consists of four distinct (but interdependent) categories of business elements that interact with each other to produce an organization’s financial and non-financial results (see below). The interaction of these four elements creates organizational culture and many managers experience this as the Invisible Bureaucracy™.

  • Patterns of Interaction (POI)
  • Context of Interaction (COI)
  • Repository of Interaction (ROI)
  • Current Results

Here’s how the four elements work together to create organizational culture. Day-to-day operations occur as patterns of interactions (POI) within the context of interaction of an organization’s structures and systems (COI). Over time, the interaction of POI and COI functions like a group learning process that creates a repository of interaction (ROI) that becomes an organization’s knowledge-base and the tacit beliefs that managers and staff members have about the organization and the people in it. Over time, these first three elements settle down on an organization-wide pattern of interaction (POI) within the larger context of interaction of the business environment (COI) and the combination of these elements produces the financial and non-financial results that an organization actually gets. This is the underlying process that Dave Hanna is describing when he says that, “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get.” Each of the four terms is briefly described below.
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Join us for a two-day BWI™ workshop entitled, Making the Invisible Bureaucracy Visible to be held in Boulder, CO on March 27-28 and May 22-23, 2008. Contact Elin Larson for details at
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Culture Corner

“Organizations are collective-cultural entities that are led, managed, and changed one person at a time.”

Mark Bodnarczuk


Breckenridge Work-Group Indicator™ (BWI™)

Effectively leading a work-group takes an enormous amount of time and energy because managers have to maintain a balance between conflicting or competing interests in a complex system of coalitions of small groups who “see” business issues very differently. For example, in a work-group of 20 people, the manager has to keep track of nineteen relationships between themselves and others, plus 171 third-party relationships. The dynamics of third-party relationships change and become even more complex when combined into coalitions of 3s and 4s. Unlike traditional approaches that use individual personality profiles, the revolutionary BWI™ presents a comprehensive 3D evaluation of group-dynamics and barriers to effective communication in work-groups. It gives managers a shorthand way to understand and effectively manage the differences between people at the work-group, small-group, and individual levels.

Because it evaluates work-groups (departments, teams, etc) within the larger context of an organization’s structures, systems, and culture, the BWI™ is typically used by middle managers, front-line supervisors, and team leaders. People who obtain the most value from the BWI™ use it to help them more effectively:

  • Define common purpose and goals
  • Optimize team performance
        and morale
  • Build group identity
  • Increase creative problem-
       solving and manage conflict
  • Coach direct reports within the
        context of the work-group’s goals
  • Join us for a two-day BWI™ workshop entitled, Making the Invisible Bureaucracy™ Visible to be held in Boulder, CO on March 27-28 and May 22-23, 2008. Contact Elin Larson at for details.

    What We’re Reading

    Gerald Driskell and
    Angela Brenton,
    Organizational Culture in Action

    Designed for use in college and graduate-level seminars on organizational culture, Organizational Culture in Action is a practical (workbook) approach to cultural assessment that uses a five-step process to guide readers through the data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, and corrective action phases of cultural assessment. In terms of the quantitative and qualitative approaches to organizational culture, this book falls squarely on the qualitative side and reflects the tools and methodologies used in more traditional cultural anthropology. Each chapter presents a section on theory, application, and valuable checklists that can be used to shape how cultural assessments are conducted. This book provides a much needed balance to more quantitative bottom-line oriented approaches to organizational culture used by authors like Kotter and Heskett in, Corporate Culture and Performance, and David Hanna’s in, Designing Organizations for High-Performance. This book is a must read for those who want to connect key elements of bottom-line, organizational effectiveness and change management with the more symbolic dimensions of organizational culture and leadership.