The function of a bureaucracy is to carry out policies that have been mandated by higher authorities outside the bureaucracy or at its top. The bureaucracy is meant to carry these policies out in a way that is fair and evenhanded. Bureaucracies can exist in government or in the private sector.
Many private sector firms have bureaucracies. In these firms, the highest levels of the company set out policies that they wish to have followed. They then entrust the bureaucracy to implement those policies. For example, a firm’s head office might order a change in a certain procedure. It will then tell its regional offices to implement that change. The regional offices will then order the individual offices in various towns to implement the change. Thus, the bureaucracy carries out the orders from the top in a way that ensures that everyone in the firm gets the message and follows the new policy.
Government agencies are also bureaucratic. They typically get their orders from Congress. If, for example, Congress decrees that the eligibility rules for food stamps will be changed, that order is passed down through the bureaucracy to the people at the lowest level who process applications for food stamps. The bureaucracy makes sure that all government employees are using the same rules. This makes sure that everyone who applies for food stamps is judged on the proper criteria.
Thus, the role of a bureaucracy is to carry out policies set by higher authorities.