1966, Bennis pronounced the imminent death of the bureaucracy. Since then, critics
have continued to suggest that bureaucracy is inherently unethical, outdated
and irrelevant (DuGay 2000, p. 1). However, the fact that it has been the leading form of
organization for over a century (cite) suggests otherwise. This essay
critically analyses bureaucracy, considering how and why it has been so central
to organizational analysis for such a long time. Firstly, it considers Weber, rationality
and provides a critique of bureaucracy. Secondly, it assesses the strengths and
dysfunctions of post-bureaucracy; considering whether it is an improvement on
bureaucracy. Then finally, it analyses critical approaches to bureaucracy, in
order to analyse whether there is a realistic alternative….
is a model of organizations that is founded on rules, hierarchy, impersonality
and division of labour (find a cite). It has an “up-focussed” mission; the
purpose being to serve shareholders (Weber?). Weber (year) explains that
bureaucracy is based, not on ‘charismatic’ or ‘traditional’ leadership (the
authority of particular individuals or established institutions). It is,
instead, based on rational-legal authority; a set of rules that are developed for rational reasons.
distinguished between instrumental and substantive rationality (CITE). Actions that
are instrumentally rational are in the pursuit of
specific goals. The action justifies and generates the outcome. Whereas actions
that are substantively rational are themselves rational, regardless of the efficiency of the action itself. For
example,___. Weber explained that bureaucracy is
characterized by a strong emphasis on instrumental rationality. Weber’s ‘ideal
type’ of bureaucracy refers to a highly efficient form
of organization. He suggested that bureaucracy was the most technically efficient and rational form of organization.
As a result of its efficiency, bureaucracy also had the advantage of producing
cheap outputs which could be easily calculated. From this perspective, it may
be argued that bureaucracy is not as bad as critics suggest.
organizations are often described as ‘machines’ (cite). They have distinct parts
that are designed to perform specific tasks, which work together as a unified
whole. This makes them predictable, standard and efficient (cite). However, by equating
the organization to a machine, employees are reduced to ‘cogs’ within that
machine (cite). This causes
is the problem of motivation (cite). Employees
follow rules and have little autonomy and discretion. As a result, employees
are unlikely to feel interested in, or motivated to perform their work. As such,
the quality of their work is likely to suffer. Therefore, although
bureaucracies appear to be efficient, they may result in the production of
inferior products. EXAMPLE
bureaucracy is criticised for focussing not on the customer, but on the
producer (cite). Employees that follow lots of rules, and are poorly motivated are
unlikely to care much about customer service but simply follow rules blindly.
Rules cannot be altered or broken to satisfy the needs of individual customers,
no matter how important it may be to that customer. Employees who break the
rules could be punished. For example (NHS). This producer-focus… this can also lead to a situation where no decision is
made until it is passed up to the competent ‘authority’,
which makes decisions unnecessarily long and complicated for the customer (cite).
greater problem with the inflexibility of bureaucracy is its inability to facilitate
innovation and change (cite). If everybody carries out their work according to
the rules, nothing will change or progress. For some organizations, this is not
a problem (E.g.) producing large quantities of standard products the
specification s of which do not vary for long periods of time, perhaps several years.
these circumstances do not apply to most organizations. In industries where
adaptation to market condition is vital for survival, ‘bureaucratic inertia’
(cite) will result in organizations stagnating and failing to compete efficiently.
(1940) introduced the idea of goal displacement. This occurs when a marginal
objective becomes the main focus and the primary objective becomes less important. Merton
suggested that people in bureaucracies become so preoccupied with following the
rules that they lose focus of the goal those rules were in place to achieve. They
care more about ‘doing things right’ than ‘doing the right things’, which
Drucker (year) explains may be efficient, but is not effective. It creates
unnecessary ‘red tape’ (cite). For example, if____.
displacement has been identified in divisionalised bureaucratic organizations. Selznick
(1949) explained that employees identify more closely with the aims of their divisions than the aims of the organization.
As a result, they focus on satisfying the needs of their team at the expense of
the needs of the organization. Thus, bureaucracy
inadvertently becomes bad for the overall performance of the organization. However,
Selznick’s criticism does not apply to every bureaucratic organization, so
should be considered with caution. Bureaucracy may be more
efficient than other ways of organizing, even if,
in particular cases, it is less than optimal.
(1955) concept for ‘work-to-rule’ is a form of industrial action. He explains
that in bureaucratic organizations, workers can disrupt the efficiency of
bureaucracy by strictly adhering to all rules in the workplace. He used the
example of a US law enforcement agency; explaining that it was better for the
organization if employees ignored rules such as not working unpaid overtime and
reporting attempts of bribery. Finishing at the time stated in employment
contracts and refusing to bend the rules creates inconveniences for the
organization. Hence, bureaucracy may not be the most efficient way of
organizing. But it does not follow that, left to themselves,
they would have adopted the most efficient way of working. They may have
adopted an even less efficient approach than that enshrined in the rules. If so,
a post-bureaucratic way of working would be less efficient at all times, not
just in times of industrial action. It may also be argued that the
problem here is not to be with bureaucracy, but with unhappy employees. If the
organization could satisfy employees whilst still maintaining some elements of
bureaucracy, it may become an efficient, positive working environment.
of a ‘mock bureaucracy’ was first introduced by Gouldner (1954). He explained
that in some bureaucratic organizations, in practice, rules are ignored. For
example, managers and employees working in an office may decide to stop
implementing rules about the clothing that employees are expected to wear to
work, and go to work in more casual clothes, if they deem suits to be inconvenient.
criticisms of bureaucracy have been around for a very long time. It has long
been suggested that the stable business environment
within which bureaucracy made sense no longer exists, and that more
collaborative organizational relations rendered the rigid rules of bureaucracy
obsolete. However, these claims have also long been criticised. Although
bureaucracy is not ideal for all organizations, it can provide **** include?