Confronting grand challenges in bureaucratic systems: The path towards open organizing

Gary T. Burke, Carola Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This study explores how practitioners in complex bureaucratic organizations attempt to escape the “iron cage” of bureaucracy and utilise open organizing to tackle complex grand challenges. Based on an in-depth longitudinal study of how a local Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) implements the regulatory push towards open organizing in the UK national health care sector, we offer a longitudinal analysis of the dynamic transitioning process towards more open and collaborative organizing across organizational and professional boundaries. In contrast to the anti-bureaucratic sentiment dominant in many scholarly discussions around open organizing, our analysis suggests that bureaucracy plays a pivotal and multifaceted role in this process as bureaucratic rationality and procedures condition the adoption of openness. Furthermore, we find that bureaucracy plays an important enabling role in precipitating openness and extricating practitioners when they become trapped in webs of complexity, collective inertia and indecision."
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020
Event80th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2020: Understanding the Inclusive Organization, AoM 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 7 Aug 202011 Aug 2020


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