Lower your company BMI

Uncategorized | 28-01-2021

Lower your BMI

Bureaucracy costs a lot of money and threatens continuity.

The cost of bureaucracy is enormous. Experts estimate that if we significantly reduce our BMI, we will generate $ 10 trillion (!) in additional income worldwide over the next 10 years.

Bureaucracy slows down and paralyses the functioning of your organisation.

This is life-threatening: in a rapidly changing world, the chances of survival for organisations with a high BMI are very low.



What does bureaucracy actually cost an organisation? It is not easy to calculate, but the experts Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini came up with the following cost aspects:

  • Hierarchy: too many managers, too many layers of organisation.
  • Resistance: too much bureaucracy that slows down decision making.
  • Insularity: too much focus on internal issues.
  • Autonomy: too many restrictions on independent action, too many rules.
  • Conformity: unusual and dissenting ideas are shot down.
  • Paralysis: too many obstacles to experimentation.
  • Politics: too much energy in gaining power and influence.

Not so easy to calculate. But important enough to think it through anyways. This is why Hamel and Zanini developed the Bureaucracy Mass Index.


BMI – Bureaucracy Mass Index

BMI is a simple and good indicator of the level of bureaucracy within an organisation.

The value can be determined by answering 10 simple questions:

  1. How many layers are there in your organization (from frontline employees up to the CEO, president, or managing director)?
  2. How much time do you spend on “bureaucratic chores” (for example, preparing reports, attending meetings, complying with requests, securing sign-offs, or interacting with staff functions such as HR)?
  3. How much does bureaucracy slow the decision making and action in your organization?
  4. To what extent are your interactions with your manager and other leaders focused on internal issues (e.g., resolving disputes, securing resources, getting approvals)?
  5. Within your work environment, how much autonomy do you or your team have to set targets and priorities?
  6. How often are frontline team members involved in the design and development of change initiatives?
  7. How do people in your organization react to unconventional ideas?
  8. In general, how easy is it for a frontline employee in your organization to launch a new project that requires a small team and a bit of seed funding?
  9. How prevalent are political behaviors in your organization?

    Organisatie BMI

    Voorbeeld Organisatie BMI

  10. How often do political skills, as opposed to demonstrated competence, influence who gets ahead in your organization?


Fill out the survey yourself on the site of Humanocracy, the recent book by Hamel and Zanini: My BMI.

On the right you can see an example after completing such a survey.


Design your organisation te be lean and agile

How can you ensure that your organisation remains lean and agile?

In any case, proceed with the following ways of improvement:

  1. Forget perfection;
  2. Reduce overhead;
  3. Lead the way with simplicity and transparency;
  4. Move from rules to principles and mission;
  5. Manage wisdom and contra voices;
  6. Move from rules to accountability;
  7. Organize differently.


1. Forget perfection

Perfectionism is often the cause of bureaucracy. Break the rules. Make it easy for employees to immediately denounce any rule that gets in their way. Check Arboned, former director Paul Verburgt removed many old rules out of the organisation.


2. Reduce overhead

Staff departments are supposed to relieve the primary parts of an organisation. But the latter is easily forgotten. And so, staff departments inadvertently askmore questions of the primary constituents. By reducing staff tasks “downward,” this temptation becomes much less. Check Buurtzorg, a well-positioned nursing service with has extremely few staff members.


3. Lead with simplicity and transparency

Complicated fuss slows things down. Make work simple and transparent. And decimate the Staff Handbook.


4. From rules to principles and mission

More or less continuing on the third point: make the goal and mission clear, limit the rules to the essentials. Describe those essentials in a few basic principles, starting points, or core values. And leave the day-to-day interpretation of this to the employees.


5. Management wisdom and contra voices

Encourage different opinions, organize a dissenting vote. Show that management is open to a different perspective. Give scope to these different ideas and opinions.


6. From rules to accountability

Trust people’s common sense. They buy houses, get married, raise families. They are perfectly capable of making decisions. In small and big ways. Just give them clarity on their mandate. And give them a large/broad mandate.


7. Organize differently

This is a topic in itself. Explore the alternative forms of organisation that have emerged, like Holacracy or Sociocracy 3.0.


Your first bureaucracy hack

Do you feel like starting? Check out the Humanocracy page for a practical approach to hacking into a piece of bureaucracy.

Give it a go! You can find the approach on: Hacking Bureaucracy

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