Viewing organizations as tools should reduce our tendency to cry incompetence when they do not do what we think they should. Incompetence certainly exists; organizations must contend with the distribution of incompetence in the general population, as well as the distribution of tendencies toward venality, stupidity, sycophancy, and so on, since they must draw upon the general population for employees. But a tool view [of organizations] alerts us to the possibility that what we see as incompetent performance or policy really reflects what some leaders wanted all along. A president will not announce that he or she intends to discipline labor and reduce inflation by creating a recession; it will be announced instead that the economy is not competitive enough. If an acquired firm goes downhill in performance, the new leaders need not be charged with incompetence in running the acquisition; they may have decided to appropriate its available cash and other liquid assets, its unused tax credits, and its best personnel and use them where they will provide greater returns. The acquired firm may then be sold, or even scrapped, possibly with significant tax breaks. Before assuming that an outcome was unintended, it is best to see if someone in top management might not have had reason to have intended the outcome. Bureaucracy is not the breeder of incompetence, as we often would like to believe. Instead, bureaucratic organization allows leaders to achieve goals, some of which are unannounced and costly for the rest of us and are only attributed to incompetence.
– Charles Perrow, Complex Organizations 1986, p. 13, emphasis added
For a preliminary application of this concept to organizations and their role in larger crises, see post here.