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Toffler on Bureaucracy

October 10, 2012

Excerpted from Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler:

It will be a long time before the last bureaucratic hierarchy is obliterated. For bureaucracies are well suited to tasks that require masses of moderately educated men to perform routine operations, and, no doubt, some such operations will continue to be performed by men in the future. Yet it is precisely such tasks that the computer and automated equipment do far better than men. It is clear that in super-industrial society many such tasks will be performed by great self-regulating systems of machines, doing away with the need for bureaucratic organization. Far from fastening the grip of bureaucracy on civilization more tightly than before, automation leads to its overthrow.

As machines take over routine tasks and the accelerative thrust increases the amounty of novelty in the environment, more and more of the energy of society (and its organizations) must turn toward the solution of non-routine problems. This requires a degree of imagination and creativity that bureaucracy, with its man-in-a-slot organization, its permanent structures, and its hierarchies, is not well equipped to provide. Thus it is not surprising to find that wherever organizations today are caught up in the stream of technological or social change, wherever research and development is important, wherever men must cope with first-time problems, the decline of bureaucratic forms is most pronounced. In these frontier organizations a new system of human relations is springing up.

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