The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy
Digital Transformation with the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler
by Mark Schwartz
On Sale

Mark Schwartz, author of leadership classics A Seat at the Table and The Art of Business Value, reveals a new (empowering) model for the often soul-shattering, frustrating, Kafkaesque nightmare we call bureaucracy.

The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy
Digital Transformation with the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler
by Mark Schwartz
On Sale

Mark Schwartz, author of leadership classics A Seat at the Table and The Art of Business Value, reveals a new (empowering) model for the often soul-shattering, frustrating, Kafkaesque nightmare we call bureaucracy.

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"Bureaucracy has never been discussed in such an entertaining and educational way before. Learn how to clean out the organizational ‘scar tissue’ that is slowing you down."

—Adrian Cockcroft, VP Cloud Architecture Strategy, Amazon Web Services 

A Playbook to Bust Through Bureaucracy

Mark Schwartz, author of leadership classics A Seat at the Table and The Art of Business Value, reveals a new (empowering) model for the often soul-shattering, frustrating, Kafkaesque nightmare we call bureaucracy.

Through humor, a healthy dose of history and philosophy, and real-life examples from his days as a government bureaucrat, Schwartz shows IT leaders (and the whole of business) how to master the ways of the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler to create a lean, learning, and enabling bureaucracy.

For anyone frustrated by roadblocks, irritated the business can’t move fast enough, or suffering under the weight of crushing procedures, this book is for you. No matter your role, you need a playbook for bureaucracy. This is it. With this playbook, you can wield bureaucracy as a superpower and bust through it at the same time.

Downloads & Extra Materials
Free Bureaucracy Playbook Poster
Get your copy of The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy poster (free download).

"Mark Schwartz turns the tables on bureaucracy, offering a practical guide to stripping out a labyrinth of rules and replacing them with simplicity, ease, and automation. His version of a benevolent bureaucracy paves the path for digital transformation and facilitates creativity and innovation."

—Kimberly Johnson, COO, Fannie Mae

Articles by the Author
The Good and the Bad of Bureaucracy
By Mark Schwartz

In a previous post I revealed how IT is the biggest, baddest bureaucrat on the block. But to overcome bureaucracy, we need to separate those of its aspects that are problematic from those that are not, and focus our efforts on the former. We must disengage from the metaphysical pathos and reengage in a particular way. Let’s now identify the actual bad stuff.

Making Bureaucracy Lean, Learning, and Enabling

By Mark Schwart

I’ve been thinking a lot about bureaucracy. And the first thing I want to point out is that bureaucracy is not just a problem in the public sector, in government. It’s something that companies have to think about a lot. In my role at AWS I meet with about 120 senior executives from large enterprises each year, and consistently they tell me that their biggest problem or one of their biggest problems in transforming is bureaucracy.

IT: The Biggest Baddest Bureaucrats
By Mark Schwartz

If you’re an IT geek, don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you love to get things done quickly and effectively, and because you rebel against rules imposed on you, you’re free from the bureaucratic urge. No, it’s more likely that you have an impressive ability to optimize processes and implement controls by turning people’s freedom into constraints. You, mon semblable, mon frere, are probably a bureaucracy savant.

Quick Guide To DevOps For The Non-IT Business Leader

By Mark Schwart

Think carefully about what success looks like. In the digital world, it looks like speed, flexibility, controls, and leanness—not like making plans and following them. It’s these new IT practices that will bring you those benefits. They have already brought them to the many other enterprises that have started down the path and, in some cases, disrupted industries.


Unlock Your Enterprise's Digital Transformation by Changing Your Relationship with Technologists
By Mark Schwartz

If you want to unlock your enterprise’s digital transformation, you must change not only its relationship with technology, but its relationship with its technologists. Conventional wisdom has settled on a way of integrating IT into the enterprise that hasn’t been very effective up to now...

The Battle of Borodino: Business as a Complex Adaptive System
by Mark Schwartz

It might seem like a stretch to compare the business environment to a ­battle, but a set of common characteristics seems to exist between war, ICUs, business in the digital era, and IT. Each of these, including the business enterprise, is an example of a complex adaptive system (CAS)—a self-organizing system (a concept that draws from evolutionary biology) in which individuals pursue their own objectives and interact in complex, ever-changing ways. 

“Mark has done it again: with his usual wit and verve, he has cut past normal lazy blather about ‘bloated bureaucracies’ to get to the truth about their place in the world. In doing so, he outlines not only why bureaucracies are necessary, but how they are best fought through a deep understanding of their internal logic and weak points. [The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy] serves as a handbook on how to fight the good fight not just for IT, but for the world too.”

—Ian Miell, Cloud Native Consultant, Container Solutions

About the Author

As an Enterprise Strategist for Amazon Web Services, Mark Schwartz uses his extensive CIO wisdom to advise the world’s largest companies on the obvious: time to move to the cloud, guys. As the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, he provoked the federal government into adopting Agile and DevOps practices. Mark speaks frequently on innovation, change leadership, bureaucratic implications of DevOps, and using Agile practices in low-trust environments. With a BS in computer science from Yale, a master’s in philosophy from Yale, and an MBA from Wharton, Mark is either an expert on the business value of IT or just confused and much poorer.

Mark is the author of The Art of Business Value, A Seat at the Table, and War and Peace and IT and the winner of a Computerworld Premier 100 award, an Amazon Elite 100 award, a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award, and a CIO Magazine CIO 100 award. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

“My brain continues to turn around quantum bureaucracy. How to get the right amount of it at the right time and in the right place, but no more and not there unless you look. Maybe Schrodinger’s Bureaucracy is something I need to work on and think about…Great read, and I’m so thankful to Mark for writing this book to reform bureaucracy. With his insight into razor-bearing sumo monkeys, we can progress toward a more modern way of managing. Like Jonah, I felt trapped with no way to determine my own direction. Mark provides great tools for guiding the whale.”

—Josh Seckel, Specialist Leader, Deloitte Digital 

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019

"Eating a Bureaucracy One Bite at a Time with DevOps"
More Titles by Mark Schwartz

Iconoclastic CIO Mark Schwartz reveals how IT leaders must throw off the old attitudes and assumptions and claim their rightful seat at the C-suite table.

In the war for business supremacy,  business leaders of today can foster a space of collaboration and shared mission, a space that puts technologists and business people on the same team.

More Praise for The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy
"Reading Marks' book is like meeting that old friend you never hanged out with and who ends to be your best friend. Bureaucracy is one of those friends that
we are often focused on fighting....The reality is it can become one of our best allies. "
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Michele Allessandrini
Global Head of Cloud Adoption and Governance at Yoox Net0-a-Porter Group
"Whether you have fallen in love with bureaucracy or hate it, you should read this book....Once again, Mark manages to combine exciting storytelling with tangible analogies form history and daily life."
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Chris Russ
Program Director and Senior Lecturer, SHAW School of Management and Law
"With his insight into razor-bearing sumo monkeys, we can progress toward a more modern way of managing."
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Josh Seckel
Specialist Leader, Deloitte Digital
"[The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy] serves as a handbook on how to fight the good fight, not just for IT but for the world too."
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Ian Miell
Cloud Nativ Consultant, Container Solutions
"A must read for leaders trying to break the vicious circle of 'it can't be done' in complex organizations.
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Renato Garcia Pedigoni
CDO, Grupo Boticario
"Reading this book made me realize the obvious: One does not simply kill bureaucracy...he has to simply transform."
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George Chr. Georgiou
Enterprise Architect, Bank of Cyprus
"[The (Delicate) Art of Bureaucracy is] a must read for government and business leaders as they embark on digital transformation. It will make you a better digital leader by giving you the knowledge to use bureaucracy as a digital accelerator."
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Chris Radich
VP Digital Strategy, Salesforce
"...it's greatest value is in the sharing of strategies and tactics for knowledge workers trammeled by bureaucracy to—like Sumo wrestlers—turn the weight of the red tape to their advantage and become innovator-makers."
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Renata Brogan
Solutions Architect, Women in Tech, Women in IT
"It take great curiosity to deeply understand organizational bureaucracy, great courage to challenge it, and pure genius to know how to bend it to your will. In this book, Mark delivers a razor-sharp analysis on all of the above."
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John Walsh
Business Relationship Manager, PepsiCo
"Mark Schwartz has written a classic bureaucracy that will always be relevant. A very readable, insightful, playful, useful, and enjoyable book that will help readers who are bureaucrats of any flavor."
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Tom Michelli
Former Acting Department of Defense Principal Deputy DIO, CIO US Coast Guard, and CIO US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
"Mark uses three levers as themes, each with usable playbooks, that will give you the confidence and early wins to maintain momentum as you break through the barriers most organizations face."
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Chris Richardson
Deputy CIO, IT Development, Mobility, Smart Cities, Arizona State University
"Mark Schwartz turns the tables on bureaucracy, offering a practical guide to stripping out a labyrinth of rules and replacing them with simplicity, ease, and automation."
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Kimberly Johnson
COO, Fannie Mae
"This fascinating book will make you rethink bureaucracy and give you actionable tools to manage in increasingly complex environments."
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Rich Seltz
CIO, CDO, Cabot Microelectronics
"Although we tend to think that bureaucracy is a disease and there are no magic recipes to change our way of thinking, we can always think of leaving it on the light side of the force."
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Laura Caceres
Operations Director, DevOps LATAM
"Informative, interesting, and thought provoking piece that raises the veil on bureaucracy."
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Ikoabasi Akpan
Sales Manager, Air France-KLM
"A remarkable and eye-opening journey on bureaucracy written with spark and wit."
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Eveline Oehrlich
Chief Research Director, DevOps Institute
"Mark provides an engaging, insightful, and balanced view on a topic that could easily make one's eyes bleed!"
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Keith Madsen
SVP, Cloud and Advanced Technology, Bank of America
"You may not come to love bureaucracy, but you will appreciate the wisdom in Mark's sage advice."
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Mark Birch
Founder, Enterprise Sales Forum and Dev.Biz.Ops
"Mark is to bureaucracy as Sun-Tzu is to the art of war. Read this book to capitalize on the good intended from bureaucracy and have the scissors you always hoped for to reshape it to be enabling, learning, and lean."
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Jamie Scott Berniker
Executive Director, Corporate Development, global balnk
"Mark has done it again, giving us IT professionals insights into how we, with our software and our creative development processes, can change heavy, unproductive bureaucratic corporations into adaptable,
human-friendly, value-driven bureaucratic corporations that we all love to work for."
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Allan Nyland Christensen
Senior Transformation Manager, LEGO
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