Few of us like bureaucracy. Will the firm of the future—and the future of work—look less bureaucratic or embrace bureaucracy even more so? In the face of societal and generational change, will organizational hierarchies fall flat? The McGill Desautels Faculty of Management investigates such critical management and business questions in Delve’s Spring 2023 digital magazine: Reworking Bureaucracy.
Delve magazine Creative Direction/Design Raj Grainger
Illustration: Dalbert B. Vilarino
In the Delve Spring 2023 digital magazine:
Read an in-depth cover story on the future of hierarchies featuring Desautels professor Matissa Hollister, PhD candidate Simon Altmejd and more experts, discussing changes to work life in the post-pandemic era. The continuing push-pull of in-person, remote, or hybrid models; a renewed focus on employees’ physical and mental well-being; labour shortages and the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” all weigh on the minds of employers and workers alike. Lately, the workplace zeitgeist has also shifted to questioning the purpose of workplace hierarchies, revealing implications for staff retention, employee loyalty, career trajectories, and company culture.
Listen to a special episode of the Delve podcast on the future of the business firm with Nobel Prize in Economics laureate and Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics Emeritus at MIT Bengt Holmström and Desautels professor and Delve Editor-in-Chief Saku Mantere. How are new management structures, such as digital platform organizations, changing the traditional nature of the firm? And are hierarchical bureaucracies and conventional leadership soon to become a thing of the past?
“Today, firms give information and access to their data to outsiders, and they don’t know who will pick it up—outsiders can propose or work out solutions. This is part of what we call platform economies. Platform organizations design playing fields for outsiders to play on and then they cash in on that in various ways. In the case of innovations, they use these innovations for themselves. It is pointing in a new direction, which is that the boundaries between firms and markets are becoming more diffuse in general.” – Bengt Holmström, Nobel Prize laureate and Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in conversation with Desautels professor Saku Mantere on the Delve podcast
“The prospect of a post-hierarchical workplace is a double-edged sword. Many people, at least in the North American cultural context, find the idea of a non-hierarchical organization appealing. The idea is that hierarchies create problematic bureaucratic structures, and take away autonomy from workers, whereas flat hierarchy creates a more enjoyable work environment.” – Professor Matissa Hollister, Desautels Faculty of Management, in Delve feature article “When Unconventional Power Shifts and Flat Firms Become More Than a Trend”
Dive into how traditional hierarchies are also being dismantled in the classroom. When is the right time to challenge an expert, whether in the workplace or in the classroom? Understanding the future directions of organizations also depends on future leaders: will they challenge traditional balances of power, organizational hierarchies, and bureaucratic systems with ideas on new ways to run the world? Critical thinking about management, hierarchies, and bureaucracy should start in the classroom, says Desautels Integrated Management Student Fellowship (IMSF) professor Sabine Dhir.
Listen to Delve podcasts on how organizations and entrepreneurship are reflecting an evolving society and changing world. Recent episodes of the Delve podcast narrow down the question of the future of organizations to reflect expertise that digs into the details without losing track of the bigger picture: hear conversations with Desautels professors Henry Mintzberg, Saku Mantere, Anna Kim, and Robert Nason. Dedicated to thought leadership and critical thinking in management research at the McGill Desautels Faculty of Management, the Delve podcast digs into all areas of management research, from strategy to finance — subscribe to the Delve podcast on all major podcast platforms, including Apple podcasts and Spotify.