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Warwick Business School

Assessed Essay What do you understand to be the primary features of a bureaucracy? To what extent might one say that we now live in a post-bureaucratic age?

Foundations in Management and Organizational Analysis IB96U0

MA Management and Organizational Analysis

Student Id 1161780 2677 words

That stupid bureaucrat! (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956: 1) is the introductory sentence in Blau and Meyers book which until now was the only connotation of bureaucracy I had and most of us still have, this term has become a personification of all things that take time i.e. inefficiency, I bet Max Weber while writing his theory didnt think that his creation would have taken such inference. For us and for the purpose of this essay we would be using the term Bureaucracy that Weber instilled in his journals The Theory of Social and Economic Organization which was published in 1924. Today Bureaucracy is not a new phenomenon. It existed in simple forms thousands of years ago in Egypt and Rome but the trend toward Bureaucratization has greatly accelerated in the last century (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956 : 10) this was direct result on our modern way of life that we faced after the industrial revolution. Bureaucracies are pervasive like most modern formal organizations and are formally structured. The idea is of bureaucracy is that they become a rational and logical organization they are systematically planned out and are well organized therefore are highly efficient in achievement of the targeted goal, moreover this also would have be done in the most efficient way possible. Some of these organizations are utilitarian which meant that we would gain certain material benefits, for example such as a job for getting paid or joining university to-gather knowledge. Webers primary focus was the idea that management, businesses and organizations were governed by rules and regulations. This term Bureaucracy has stayed with us through today. We now link it with red tape rules; it was his theory that introduced the notion of rule driven organization. Weber also characterized bureaucracy as the most rational form of organization thus the most efficient and more superior than any other form of organization (Gajduschek, 2003: 701).

Outline for the Essay

For this essay I have deliberately terse the information to provide maximum insight in the most analytical way possible likewise the article begins with an outline of the different inherent features of bureaucracies and the challenges that different critic have posed within these traits furthermore this article would provide insights into the realistic and unavoidable shift towards more radical organizational forms. This article would, with reference to journals discuss and answer to what extent do we live in the post bureaucratic age.


Features of Bureaucracy
Webers theories of bureaucracy were firmly planted towards Authority and RationalityWeber saw what might hold a society together was some sense of authority (Grey, 2009: 22). This would provide the society with infinite supply of successive authority based on their experience technical capabilities and superior leadership underlined with their rational choices. Here (Weber, 1948) believed or imagined that the rational legal system would create high technical efficiency. Which he denoted as a rational-legal authority is an authority, which enforces law in interests of the society. Weber saw this new type of organization structure where leadership and authority was derived from a framework that was logical. In bureaucracies the choice of who should be given authority is rationally determined by rules and legally binding procedures (Hatch & Cunliffe,2006: 31). Crozier (1964: 3) in his book explains to us the usage of the word Bureaucratic, he states that there are basically three uses of the word bureaucratic in this field of social sciences. According to Crozier (1964: 3) the first and the most orthodox usage of the corresponding to Political Environment in a society where the governmental offices which are managed by departments of the state are organized hierarchically having absolute authority. Michel Crozier coins this authority as bureaucratic power, which directly relates to law and order. Second usage originated from Max Weber calling it bureaucratization, which simply implies enforcing rigid procedures to collective activities within an organization. Whereas the third meaning states frequent use of this word compassing slowness red tape and complicated procedures within an organization. From (Weber, 1948) theories we could clearly identify certain distinct traits of what he called as an Ideal type of Bureaucracy. Let us first start by mentioning the most distinct and inherent feature of bureaucracies. Defined hierarchical order of authority and Centralization of DecisionsThis trait is one of the most clearly identified aspects within a bureaucracy. Its emphasis is placed on clear chain of command through many layers within the organization. Fiore (2004: 112-115) states that the commands flow from top offices towards bottom or lower level offices and these are regulated and governed by higher level authorities. Here, the top down approach is like a pyramid where the top office commands the most power and authority. This also means that there was a significant departmentalization
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within the organization, where the organization was divided into core business functions like production, marketing and finance. These functions were departments having layers of authority built into them. Offices are ranked in a hierarchical order, with information flowing down the chain of command. Till today in most organizations we see that Hierarchical structures are evident, with the front line staff reporting to supervisors and managers and so on up a well-defined chain of command (Madern, n.d.). In this hierarchy, every official in middle management is accountable for his as well as his subordinates tasks and actions giving a sense of responsibility and accountability. Moreover large bureaucracies undertook specialized work which required greater control on organizational dynamics such as coordination and resource allocation thus having a tall vertical hierarchical structure facilitated a lot. Centralization of decisions, As Michel Crozier infers that both impersonality and centralization of decisions are complementary and mutually inclusive to each otherThe power of decision making within a bureaucratic organization is located exactly where the stability of the internal political system is preferred to achievement of functional goals of the organization (Crozier, 196: 189). Hereby decisions taken are free from personal prejudices and eliminate the personal power and authority within the organization. Moreover people how take decisions dont have the first-hand knowledge to solve the problem and on the other hand is that the people/frontline employees who have the first-hand knowledge of process dont have power and authority to take decisions to solve, experiment and innovate (Crozier 1964:190). Employees in bureaucracies rely on top management to provide them direction and a path to achieve set goals. Furthermore, In Bureaucracies the top management could exercise greater spa of control, which allowed them to easily monitor and maintain balance between departments and functions (Jex & Britt, 2008 p.416). This likewise helped in decisions being taken on a macro perspective throughout the organization. Various merits what we can relate in context to bureaucracies on centralized decisions making were additional control, minimize reporting procedures and quicker decision process (Crozier, 1964: 190).


Level of Impersonality of interpersonal relationships and Career Orientation Impersonality means treating everyone in the same regards to their individual identity and the rule of law that applies to all citizens and judicial systems impartially (Wallis, 2010). Equally, Impersonality refers to removal of all subjectivity within the organizational context. In others words like Talyorian organizational classical on scientific management where there is strict elimination of any personal elements from the conduct of work. (Gajduschek, 2003). Bureaucratic rationality in modern era, impersonality can often be seen in large banks where employees and officials have to treat all customers in the same objective way, irrespective of the whether the customer is friend family or relative (Madern, n.d.).Additionally in bureaucracies nepotism thrived this aspect was encompassed by Anthony Downs illustrating that personnel policies were dominated by factors such as seniority, nepotism, ethnic background and political connections or by pure chance (Downs, 1967: 28) (Tullock, 1965). Employment in bureaucratic organization is based on technical qualifications; there is a system of promotions according to seniority or to achievement or both (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956: 20) In bureaucracies employees are promoted or hired according to educational qualifications and work experience since this was a pre requisite to impersonality as well as efficiency (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956 :20)Looking further in their book Blau states that this type of career path encourages the development of loyalty and spirit de corps among members (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956: 20). Division of Labour Webers ideal type of bureaucracy captured the notion of division within labour classes where laborers were divided to improve productivity. For example, many large manufacturing organizations like Ford, workers were divided into specialized tasks; these combinations of specialized tasks produced a final product. In Ford one worker would only work on assembling wheels and other worker would only work on assembling of the dashboard thus in collaboration create an Automobile. Division also allowed bureaucracies to match the job demands (profile) of tasks to the capabilities of workers, agreeing with Kilcullen (1996) in his article on Max Weber on Capitalism, where he refers to the use of hierarchical structures and Authoritarianism could lead to effective division of labour.


Extensive Systems of Formal and Written Rules and Regulations within a bureaucracy Explicit rules and regulation define the responsibility of each member and the relationships among them (Blau & W.Meyer, 1956: 19). This meant that in Webers terms that the rules were applied to each hierarchical layer of the organization and to each employee within that layer. These employees were expected to work within their job description bound to these rules. For example Blau in their book stated that This does not imply that bureaucratic duties are necessarily simple and routine He also takes an example inferring that these rules are implied to the office clerk and even to the Supreme court Justice where the former is involved merely filling alphabetically and the later had to interpret the law to settle cases (Peter M Blau, 1956: 19). This meant that duties and the rules assigned to these duties ranged in complexity and applied universally and written down. Weber posited that bureaucracies were technically efficient instruments of administration because their institutionalized rules and regulations enabled all employees to learn and perform their duties optimally (Jain, 2004). These rules and regulations determine employees chosen for each job through merit system (Tullock, 1965: 16). This system allows people to be hired and promoted on the basis of qualifications and experience. According to Crozier, (1964: 188) there are two rules the first set determines the job specification through qualifications, skills and abilities of employees and the second rule is that job allocation and promotion within a bureaucracy was down through seniority and experience of employees. This leads to employees working on specified and specific roles in accordance to the rational framework of these rules.


Critics, Criticisms and the Shift

Bureaucracies were known for their efficiency, formality and rigidity nonetheless many authors, (Fox et al., 2004: 81) (Sapru, 2008: 288) have criticized this notion that in the quest for better control and efficiency many bureaucracies have forgotten the human quotient as part of their organization internal environment. This was what Karl Marx called as Alienation of labour (Marx & Engels, 1988). There may be various causes of these forms of alienation, with bureaucracy and organizational structures, lack of ownership, social disorganization or poor management, or technology being among the common explanations (Gingrich, 2003). Likewise according to Gingrich (2003), alienation meant that workers lost control over their work, ambiguity in task performance, lack of commitment by employees and poor job satisfaction. Along with alienation many (Calhoun, 2007: 442) (May, 1996: 66) authors have also criticized bureaucracies to dehumanize employees within the organization because they wanted to maintain their structure, by dehumanizing it meant that they controlled the unpredictable behavior of employees through rules and regulations and expected them to work like machines. With these criticisms surrounding bureaucracies and their negative connotations many authors have suggested that in order to survive change, certain organizations have and will transform themselves into post-bureaucratic form which denotes the same meaning as post hierarchical virtual organization postmodern organization and the boundary less organization as mentioned by (McSweeney, 2006: 22),These are synonyms of what an post bureacractic organisation could denote. For the purpose of this essay I would analyse these organisations. Symon (2000: 390) brings out four key characteristics of post bureaucracies, first being able to adapt to environmental changes i.e. flexibility, second to learn from their environment and innovate accordingly. Thirdly to outsource their functions to reduce cost and to be customer oriented. Lastly decisions to be made quickly and changes in organizational direction are accomplished without large administrative procedures. Moreover Hales (2002) infered that network organization is one such example of post bureaucratic organization which is distinctly differs from bureaucratic setup as an absence of rigid division of rules and hierarchical and rules (Hales, 2002: 54).He also circumstances that, networks organizations are organizations having lateral informal communication between self-managed teams with fluid division of labour to achieve set goals. Besides this Keast et al., (2004: 364) opinionated that networks were distinguishable because no one was in charge and typical forms of power and authority do not work in network organizations.
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The role of Information technology revolution in the past quarter of a century placed an important turning point in organizational studies (Knights & Willmott, 2006: 490), the development of computer based technologies i.e. Information communication technology (ICTs) empowered bureaucracies to transition into post-bureaucracies, for example use of systems of quality control and resource helped organizations adapt quickly, for example use of Total quality management helped Toyota improve efficiency and quality at work. Accenture used the outsourcing model to reap the benefits of control and flexibility in core functions. Lastly, Google with its open culture fostered innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial talent through flatness. Highlighting these (above mentioned) organizations represent just a small portion of all the organizations that exist, No wonder we see the majority of organizations still wedged with the principles of bureaucracy. This was constantly due to the fact that it was easier to Re-bureaucratize than to Debureaucratize (Hodgson, 2004: 97), meaning for organizations it was easier to implement change based within the bureaucratic model (emphasis on cost implications as well) rather change wholly into a different and radical post-bureaucratic model. It would appear that the emergence of new and more flexible organizational forms will depend on inherently complex and intractable process which occurs within bureaucracy itself (Josserand et al., 2006: 61). This was discussed by (Josserand et al., 2006: 61) reffering to these Re-bureacratized as hybrid organizations or democratic hierarchies.



In the quest of finding the most superior and ideal type of organizational structure many academicians have concluded that there is not one single type of structure but there are mix of many different structuresThe post bureaucratic organization is not free from the Weberian Ideal type but combines the old rationalization mechanisms with new principles of networks and democracies. (Josserand et al., 2006: 55). Additionally, this paper discusses an understanding that the bureaucratic model is still applicable in many organizations but not in all. Other forms of organizational structures tend to adopt certain principles of bureaucratic model only under circumstantial and situational events. Although much light has been put on criticisms in this essay and its analysis of bureaucracies but to my astonishment, I have found that in todays era of Post- Bureaucracy certain organizations like governmental agencies, army offices and even certain small organizations have retained the original traits of the Weberian ideal type of bureaucracy. Another view point is that what we see in todays era, different large and small organizations prefer restructuring only within the basic bureaucratic models rather than shifting towards radically new organizational forms (Hales, 2002: 61-64). I would like to conclude on this notion that even though we portray ourselves in the Post-Bureaucratic age we cynically see that only minority of organizations explicitly employ the post-bureaucratic model. Thus it would be safe to say that this era reflects an exaggerated ideology, accepted only by the privileged organizations who can afford such drastic measures of evolution. . Looking forward three decades from now, we would certainly see an universal acceptance to this ideology behind Post-Bureaucracy, but not now.


Works Cited
Blau, P.M. & W.Meyer, M., 1956. Bureaucracy in Modern Society. Random House Inc. Calhoun, C., 2007. Contemporary Sociological Theory. Wiley Blackwell. Crozier, M., 1964. The Bureaucratic Phenomenon. University of Chicago. Downs, A., 1967. Inside Bureaucracy. The Rand Corporation. Fiore, D.J., 2004. Introduction to educational administration: standards, theories, and practice. Eye on Education. Fox, W., Schwella, E. & Wissink, H., 2004. Public Management. African Sun Media. Gajduschek, G., 2003. Uncertainty Reduction : An Ignored Element of Bureaucratic Rationality Bureaucracy: is it efficient? is it not? is that Question? Administration and Society, 34(6). Gingrich, P., 2003. Karl Marx on Alienation. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK

Grey, C., 2009. A Very Short, fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organizations. Sage. Hales, C., 2002. 'Bureaucracy-Lite' and Continuities in Managerial Work. British Journal of Management, 13(51-66). Hall, R., 1972. The Formal Organization. Basic Books. Hatch, M.J. & Cunliffe, A.L., 2006. Organization theory : modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives. Oxford University Press. Hodgson, D.E., 2004. Project Work: The Legacy of Bureaucratic Control in the Post-Bureaucratic Organization. Organization, 11. Jain, A., 2004. Using the lens of Max Weber's Theory of Bureaucracy to Examine E-Government Research. 37 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Jex, S.M. & Britt, T.W., 2008. Organizational psychology: a scientist-practitioner approach. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons. Josserand, E., Teo, S. & Clegg, S., 2006. From Bureaucratic to Post Bureaucratic. The difficulties of Transition, 19(1). Keast, R., P.Mandell, M., Brown, K. & Woolcock, G., 2004. Network Structures; Working Differently and Changing Expectations. Public Administration Review, 64(4). Kilcullen, J., 1996. MAX WEBER: ON CAPITALISM. [Online] Available at: HYPERLINK
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Knights, D. & Willmott, H., 2006. Introducing Organizational Behavior and Management. Cengage Learning. Madern, A., n.d. Integrated Management. Financial Management. Marx, K. & Engels, F., 1988. Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Prometheus. May, L., 1996. The socially responsive self: social theory and professional ethics. University of Chicago Press. McSweeney, B., 2006. Are we living in a post-bureaucratic epoch? Journal of Organizational Change Management, 19(1). Sapru, R.K., 2008. Administrative Theories And Management Though. 2nd ed. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. Symon, G., 2000. Information and Communication Technologies and the network organizations : a critical analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology , 73. Tullock, G., 1965. The politics of bureaucracy. Public Affairs Press. Wallis, J.J., 2010. Institutions, Organizations, Impersonality and Interests. The dynamics of Institutions. Weber, E.i.S.F.M.W., 1948. H.H Gerth C.Wright Mills. Lowe & Brydone Ltd.