A common theme in popular business discourse is the demise of bureaucracy and the emergence of a new, more liberating post-bureaucratic era. While subject to variation, common themes in this genre include organisations becoming less insular, hierarchical and rule-bound and more change-focused, enterprising and collaborative. Indeed, the persona of the manager as leader is a recurring image. A ‘high-flyer’, familiar with consulting and MBA techniques, experienced in a wide range of industry settings and jumping from one corporate turnaround to the next.
But as is so often the case in claims of fundamental change, there is good reason to be sceptical about the demise of bureaucracy and the birth of this ‘new’ 21st century organisational ideal. In our recent book Management as Consultancy: Neo-bureaucracy and the Consultant Manager, Andrew Sturdy, Nick Wylie and I argue that while large organisations are changing, there are also strong resonances with the past. Based on an extensive analysis of Australian and British corporations, we find that managers are becoming less explicitly hierarchical and more market and change oriented. Continue reading The Age of Neo-bureaucracy