According to Max Weber, ‘Bureaucracy’ means a centrally directed, systematically organized and hierarchically structured staff devoted to the regular, routine and efficient carrying out of large-scale administrative tasks according to policies dictated by, rulers or directors standing outside and above the bureaucracy. Such a staff, as Weber rightly saw, tends to become rule-bound, functionally specialized, elevating impersonality and esprit de corps.
But ‘bureaucracy’ has also meant the opposite of organizational efficiency and effective centralized control: red tape, slowness of procedure, reluctance to take a decision, the unnecessary multiplication of people, rules and forms — a connotation achieved by singling out for attention unfavourable secondary features or tendencies of bureaucratic structures. The term ‘bureaucracy’ has been included in, but also contrasted with, the more general concept of administration.
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Sometimes this is done by seeing bureaucracy as a formal and impersonal mode of administration, sometimes by seeing bureaucracy as that form of administration where administrators (the bureaucrats, the officials) have become the real rulers, arrogating to themselves privilege, power and control. An Organizational structure defines how job tasks are formally divided, grouped and coordinated. The main elements to consider while designing an organizational structure are Work Specialization, departmentalization, chain of command, p of control, centralization and decentralization and formalization.
The most common Organizational designs found in use are ? Simple or Flat structure ? The Bureaucracy ? The Matrix structure ? The Team Structure ? The Virtual Organization ? The Boundaryless Organization The paper discusses the major advantages of all the above designs and all are compared with bureaucracy and the real contribution of bureaucracy is arrived at the end of discussion. Then the role of bureaucracy in improving the efficiency of the organization is elucidated. The impact of a low level bureaucracy is then discussed and its role in efficiency is discussed.
Then the impacts of high level bureaucracy are discussed. Finally, the paper concludes by stating that a moderate level of bureaucracy is good for increasing the efficiency of the organization. Advantages and Disadvantages of various Organizational designs The simple structure is characterized by a low degree of departmentalization, wide ps of control, authority centralized in a single person, and little formalization. The strength of the simple structure lies in its simplicity. It’s fast, flexible and inexpensive to maintain and accountability is clear.
One major weakness is that it is difficult to maintain in anything other than a small organization. The decision making becomes slow as the organization grows in size because of its low formalization and high centralization. A bureaucracy is characterized by highly routine operating tasks achieved through specialization, much formalized rules and regulations, tasks that are grouped into functional departments, centralized authority, narrow ps of control, and decision making that follows the chain of command.
The primary strength of bureaucracy lies in its ability to perform standardized activities in a highly efficient manner. One of the major weakness of this structure is that it causes departmental conflicts and highly inflexible always following the rules. There is no room for modification The Matrix structure is characterized by dual lines of authority and combines product and functional departmentalization. IBM adopts a modified version of the matrix structure in its overall operations.
The strength of this structure lies in its ability to facilitate coordination and efficient allocation of specialists. The major disadvantage lies in the confusion it creates, its prosperity to foster power struggles, and the stress it places on individuals. The Team structure uses teams as the central device to coordinate work activities. Companies like DaimlerChrysler, Saturn, Motorola and Xerox have made extensive use of self managed teams to improve productivity at the operational level. In smaller companies, the team structure can define the entire organization.
For instance, Imedia, a 30 person marketing firm in New Jersey is completely organized around teams. This structure is highly unsuitable for large companies. A Virtual organization is a small core organization that out sources major business functions. Ancle Hsu and David Ji run a virtual organization. Their firm, California based Apex Digital, is one of the world’s largest producers of DVD Players, yet the company neither owns a factory nor employs an engineer. They contract everything out to firms in China. This is suitable for small and large organizations.
The major advantage is the flexibility and the disadvantage is lack of managerial control in key aspects of business. The Boundaryless organization is an organization that seeks to eliminate the chain of command, have limitless ps of control, and replace departments with empowered teams. The discussion of various organizational designs indicates the flexibility and adaptable nature of other designs compared to Bureaucracy. This also reveals that in most situations, Bureaucracy is good when the weaknesses of the designs are studied. Role of Bureaucracy in improving the efficiency of the organization
The Primary strength of bureaucracy lies in putting like specialties together in functional departments results in economics of scale, minimum duplication of personnel and equipments, and employees who have the opportunity to talk “ the same language” among their peers. Further more, bureaucracy can get by nicely with less talented – and hence, less costly middle and lower level managers. The pervasiveness of rules and regulations substitutes for managerial discretion. Standardized operation, coupled with high formalization, allow decision making to be centralized.
There is little need therefore, for innovative and experienced decision makers below the level of senior executives. This drastically cuts costs for the enterprise and improves the efficiency level drastically by obtaining high levels of economies of scale and spending less on employees. The bureaucracy is efficient only as long as employees confront problems that they have previously encountered and for which programmed decision rules have already been established. Impact of a low level of bureaucracy A low level of bureaucracy results in huge lack of control.
Employees are at their will and decision making becomes a very cumbersome task. There will be a lot of outstanding orders and the work schedule will be way below the expected level. This considerably decreases the efficiency of the organization. In very rare cases, employees take up responsibility and achieve targets. Impact of a high level of bureaucracy A high level of bureaucracy is highly detrimental to the growth of the organization. This makes the employees to develop job insecurity and they feel to be continuously monitored.
High level of bureaucracy is characterized by issuing orders and a logic to follow. There will be a lot of unwanted works and precious time will be spent in duplication of the same work in various levels of the organization. This curbs innovation and creativity leading to routine jobs and eventually leads to employee boredom. There will be no sort of an employee involvement in this situation. Employees work for long hours but the output will be way below the standards and there will be no motivation mechanisms to support the employees. This finally results in employee turnover.
So, a high level of bureaucracy is to be avoided as it may arouse the employees against the management of the company. Weakness of Bureaucracy One of the major weaknesses of a bureaucracy is illustrated in the following dialogue between four executives in one company: “Ya Know, nothing happens in this place until we produce something, “said the production executive. Wrong commented the research and development manager, “Nothing happens until we design something”. “What are you talking about? ” asked the marketing executive. “Nothing happens here until we sell something”.
Finally, the exasperated accounting manager responded, “It does not matter what you produce, design, or sell. Now one knows what happens we tally up the results! ” This conversation points at the fact that specialization creates subunit conflicts. Functional unit goals can override the overall goals of organization. The other major weakness of a bureaucracy is something dealing with the people who work in these organizations: obsessive concern with following the rules. When cases arise that do not precisely fit the rules, there is no room for modification. Conclusion
Bureaucracy is efficient to the organization only when a moderate level exists. Both a low level of bureaucracy and a high level of bureaucracy will result in the inefficient operation of the enterprise without fully utilizing the resources of the company. A moderate level of bureaucracy will ensure that control mechanisms are in place and that employees are achieving their targets. This also allows the restriction of imposing rules and procedures to the employees and causing boredom. When a saturation point is reached, bureaucracy contributes greatly to improving the efficiency of the organization to a great level.
Reference: • Stephen P. Robbins, Organizational Behavior, Tenth Edition, Prentice Hall of India. Pg. 425-446, Pg. 523-535. • Garry Dessler, Human Resource Management, Eastern Economy edition. Pg 465-479. • Randy L. Desimone, Jon M. Werner and David M. Harris, Human Resource Development, Pearson education. Pg. 225 – 239 • Cummings & Worley, Organization Culture and Change , 2005, page 490 • Merril Ewert D and Jennifer A King Rice. 2002 October. Managing Diversity: HRM Review. • http://www. hrmguide. co. uk/history/classical_organization_theory. htm
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