Book Review: Humanocracy

When I think of bureaucracy, I think of big business and large government agencies. I think of stagnation and bloated payrolls. I think of too many rules and not enough innovation. I rarely think of small business. At least not before reading this book…

In Humanocracy, Co-authors Hamel and Zanini make a passionate, data-driven argument for excising bureaucracy within your organization and replacing it with something much better. They provide a blueprint for creating organizations, big and small, that are as inspired and ingenious as the human beings that work for them.

The authors found through their research that once a company hits a certain threshold of complexity – around 200 – 300 employees – bureaucracy starts growing faster than the organization itself.  That’s why big companies have more bureaucracy per capita than small businesses. Yet, as I read this book and the description of bureaucratic practices, I found myself recognizing many of the same practices in small companies, just in a reduced form.

What are the symptoms of bureaucratic companies? Here’s a sampling, according to the authors:

  • Formal organizational hierarchy
  • Authority trickles down
  • Big leaders appoint little leaders
  • Strategies and budgets are set at the top
  • Job roles are tightly defined
  • Compensation correlates with rank

How can you combat bureaucracy in your work and your life? Watch this brief video shown below from best-selling author and podcaster Daniel Pink for several great suggestions.

Whether your company is big or small, your job as the leader is to eliminate bureaucracy and promote humanocracy.  I strongly recommend this book as a good first step.


Pinkcast 4.04. This is how to smash bureaucracies.