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The Mechanistic Mindset and Bureaucracy


In the rational mechanistic model of organization according to which bureaucracies are designed, the social system is viewed as a means to attain group goals and objectives. Changes in organizational patterns are thus viewed as tactics to improve the level of efficiency. In other words, employees are considered cogs in the machine. This runs contrary to the fact that individuals are searching more and more for meaning from their work.

In order to transform bureaucracies, we need to change the bureaucratic/mechanistic mindset to a socio-cultural systemic one. In this view, an organization is a complex system composed of purposeful human beings. When a purpose appeals to the moral conviction of employees, then they are capable of acting with conviction and self-determination without being micromanaged. And when organizations operate with a clear and well-aligned purpose, then they become great and influential.

From our experiences, we each have formed a unique set of values, beliefs, and assumptions through which we filter and interpret what we see and do. Our mindsets feed on themselves both positively and negatively. To change or discard old worldviews and mindsets is a difficult and sometimes painful process. What drives some people to be more proficient at it than others, and what are the mechanisms that trigger this process?

Most of us are not aware of how we arrived at our present mindset, nor of the existence of a prevailing worldview within ourselves. We have been involuntarily conditioned to think like we do. Therefore, changing our mindset requires the recognition that what we are doing is not working. Too often individuals and organizations blame their environment for failures instead of recognizing their inability to adapt to a changing landscape. In such cases, learning and unlearning are key to achieving success.

Unlearning involves resetting and challenging old assumptions, experiences, ideals, values, motives, and beliefs that are used consciously or subconsciously in decision making and learning. “Forget everything you know” is a key principle of unlearning. Unlearning is forgetting. Unlearning is about the discovery of new goals and responses by stepping out of habitual frames of reference and reexamining norms and assumptions.


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