Bureaucracy as a management philosophy
Overview of Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is a philosophy of management that was developed by Max Weber. This principle or philosophy of management is argued to be a form of management in old forms of organizational management by scholars of modern management. However, it is evident that bureaucratic principles are still embraced in organizational management in formal organizations. Generally bureaucracy denotes a management structure in organization which has a strong basis on logic order and the use of formal authority. The aim of this form of this form of management is to achieve organizations which are fair, orderly and highly efficient. Bureaucratic management has a number of basic principles. These principles include functional specialization or division of labor, a well designed structure of authority and systematized rules governing the roles of employees. Other principles are a systematized protocol of resolving work situations, impersonalized relations between employees and selection or promotion that is competence based.
This philosophy of management has is strongholds as well as shortfalls as it has been explored by management experts. This paper will thus explore this philosophy through a comparison of five different journal articles. Each of this articles discuses the subject of bureaucracy as a philosophy in organizational management be refereeing to specific research and case studies. Each of these articles either support bureaucratic principles in managing or negates them by referring to specific examples in research contexts used.
Analysis of the Articles
O’Toole & Meier (2010) in the in their article titled “In Defense of Bureaucracy: Public managerial capacity, slack and the dampening of environmental shocks” are supportive of aspects of bureaucracy in management. Through research, the author notes the importance of using bureaucratic management principles in enhancing public performance. The advantage of bureaucracy in public management is more evident in times of crises or environmental shocks. The bureaucratic system of public management is highly organized and thus proper channels or records can easily be traced to help avert the environmental shocks. Environmental shocks or rather the disruptions originating from outside the management systems require highly organized structure. Such structures are often prevalent in bureaucratized system of public administration. Managerial quality is bettered in bureaucratic form of public management because of the smooth flow of instructions within an organization or a management system (O’Toole & Meier, 2010).
While it is easy to achieve managerial quality in bureaucratic management of public institutions, bureaucratic management has one major challenge which is the killing of innovation. In this way, managerial resources which must accompany managerial quality for a smooth or functional organization become scarce. Innovation which will help mobilize organizational management resources is killed. Workers are not allowed to go out of their way to come up with means of raising more resources for the organization. Environmental shocks often take a positive trend because of the inadequacy of resources to mitigate the shocks (O’Toole & Meier, 2010).
Environmental shocks require creativity and extra – activities by organizational staffs. However organizational staffs in bureaucratic public sectors are restricted to particular codes of working which limits their level of response. This explains why public institutions which often use bureaucratized systems fail in responding to external challenges. However, in ordinary situations, public organizations achieve high performance because of the management quality which is enhanced by systematized authority a clear definition of duties. The skills of managers are critical in bureaucratic administration. While these skills are important in central functions, they kill the spirit of diversification which is required in the complex managerial environment like the management in education (O’Toole & Meier, 2010).
Chen, Hsieh & Mao (2009) in their research titled “The relationship between bureaucracy and workplace friendship” explore whether workplace relations are enhanced by bureaucracy or not. Having interviewed a total of 408 workers from different sectors: banking, education, government and medical they deduce that bureaucratic management has a negative effect on workplace friendship. Workplace relations are critical in organizations because they enhance positive functions in the organization for example support and the sharing of information. Workplace friendship creates positive job attitudes which bring about job satisfaction and enhances job performance. Generally, workplace friendship has been found to boost organizational commitment and hence organizational performance (Chen, Hsieh & Mao, 2009).
While bureaucracy is argued to inhibit organizational friendship, there are a number of bureaucratic management characteristics which can be sources of workplace friendship. These characteristics are formal procedures and rules, impersonality and hierarchy. This is however dependent on how they are applied in the organization. Hierarchy and supervision in organizations limits the aspect of employee autonomy and therefore taming the pursuance of individualized goals by the employees when at work. However, the hierarchy and supervision aspect and decreased autonomy which are common in bureaucratic organizations results in employee boredom thereby making them engage in other activities. Examples of these activities are informal conversations which end up promoting friendship. This research derived its final sample from different organizations to determine the level at which bureaucracy is still practiced in organizations. From the research, it was discovered that bureaucracy is still practices in many organizations or organizational sectors and only varies in degree. Friendship in bureaucratic organizations is derived from negative feelings arising from the impacts of the application of bureaucratic principles of management (Chen, Hsieh & Mao, 2009).
Another article used in this paper is titled “Seeking regenerative work in the post-bureaucratic transition” which was authored by Kira and Forslin in 2008. These researchers explore management by focusing on the aspects of post-bureaucracy. Personal development and coping capacities of employees are the major issues being assessed in the research. The research reveals that most organizations have been attempting to move from bureaucracy to post-bureaucratic management. However, post-bureaucracy is marked by weaknesses making organizations to maintain most aspects of bureaucratic management. The weakness comes from its unbalanced nature. Organizations still base on bureaucratic principles in management which include impersonality, hierarchy and pre-planning of activities. Bureaucracy still remains to be deeply rooted in organizations and post-bureaucratic principles are only extrapolated from organizational bureaucracy (Kira and Forslin, 2008).
Organizations are working on achieving operations that are more efficient in the tough and challenging environment. Demand for quality of service provisions in organizations has been on the increase. This necessitates management change in organizations. One of the means through which change can be managed in organizations is through the shifting of management from dependency on bureaucratic culture of management. Bureaucratic mentality of management is being distorted by competition, industry deregulation, new or emergent technologies, and workforce diversity. Post bureaucratic principles emphasize on personal principles as opposed to impersonality which is rooted in bureaucratic management (Kira and Forslin, 2008).
Nee & Opper, (2009) in their research titled “Bureaucracy and Financial Markets” sought to explain the relevance of bureaucratic form of management as applied to certain sectors. The article emphasizes the need for bureaucratic management in sensitive sectors handling public resources like the financial markets. Bureaucratic and methodological procedures and performance enhances capital accounting in financial markets. Bureaucracy minimizes the risks which are more inherent in un-bureaucratic management. The institutional environment in the financial industry is bettered through continued monitoring of the capital and bureaucratic management by the government which. This encourages public trust in the financial institutions which helps in improving their customer base (Nee & Opper, 2009).
Bureaucratic management leads to corporate development in organizations. Bureaucratic management has principles which favor the development of modern corporations. Bureaucratic management is structured in relation to offices and the status system where authority as well as obligations are specified and are only constrained by formal rules. Administrative duties are well divided in bureaucratic management. Technical qualifications guide the recruitment and appraisal of workers or rather bureaucrats. Bureaucracy focuses on long-term goals and not on fragmented goals. Bureaucracy ensures fair treatment of all organizational actors which enhances the market economy in which most institutions or organizations thrive (Nee & Opper, 2009).
The last article is tittled “Managing, managerial control and managerial identity in the post-bureaucratic world” by McKenna, Garcia-Lorenzo & Bridgman, 2010. This paper sought to give an overview of issues that are inherent in managerial identity and managerial control in organizations that use post- bureaucratic forms of management. In the paper, it has been discovered that organizations are making efforts to shift for pure bureaucracy and are now using what is referred to as re-bureaucratization. There exists tension in modern or emerging organizations where the bonds between organizational members are becoming more informal. This means the relations or bonds are being de-bureaucratized (McKenna, Garcia-Lorenzo & Bridgman, 2010).
In an effort to move away from total bureaucracy in management, new forms of bureaucracy are being developed. The traditional bureaucratic form of management which was more evident in the developed nations of the west is being abandoned. However, bureaucracy remains favored in situations where the operations are highly standardized. However such operations are being minimized with many organizations being forced to adopt market oriented operations which minimize procedure for ease of access to service. Rules in post-bureaucratic management are being replaced by consensus or collective agreements made by organizational members. Responsibilities are assigned to people who can best handle then and not on the basis of hierarchy as is in ideal bureaucracy. Also, organizational members are treated as individuals (McKenna, Garcia-Lorenzo & Bridgman, 2010).
The impersonality concept is eliminated. Organizational boundaries are opened and become more open. Organizational communication is enhanced because more informal channels of communication are allowed. However other scholars remain pessimistic by arguing that bureaucracy is still the commonly practiced form or management that is used in most organizations. They argue that what is being referred to as post-bureaucracy is the adaptation of organizations to bureaucracy. What organizations are doing to move away from bureaucracy has is referred to as the hybridization of bureaucracy by the pessimistic scholars of bureaucratic management. It is notable in the hybridized organizations which fall under re-bureaucratization those new forms of management (McKenna, Garcia-Lorenzo & Bridgman, 2010).
Comparison of the articles
All the articles explained denote research or case study discuses bureaucracy as a philosophy of management. All the articles point to the positive and negative aspects of bureaucratic management as in reference to specific cases of management which are being surveyed. The comparison of the articles can be best brought out as in the table below:-
Article by author and date
Points in support of the philosophy of bureaucracy in management
Points in support of bureaucracy
Points against bureaucracy
O’Toole & Meier (2010).
Bureaucracy is best suited for management and enhances public performance.
Bureaucracy enhances order thus best suited in modern public management because of the inherent environmental shocks.
Managerial quality is easily bettered in bureaucratic administration due to systematized flow of information and instructions.
Bureaucratic management kills innovation in public institutions because it does not support the mobilization of resources by organizations.
Environmental shocks require organizational resources which are not easily raised in bureaucratic managed institutions.
Chen, Hsieh & Mao (2009).
Workplace friendship in bureaucratic administration is negatively generated. It is generated out of efforts of employees to beat the tight rules and procedures of bureaucratic administration.
Bureaucratic management kills workplace friendship.
The covertly generated workplace friendship can be lethal to the organization.
(Kira and Forslin (2008).
Post-bureaucracy has inherent weaknesses and sticks to most of the principles of bureaucratic management.
Impersonality, hierarchy and pre-planning which are aspects of bureaucracy are still prevalent in post-bureaucratic management.
Most organizations are making efforts of moving away from bureaucratic management by adopting post-bureaucratic management practices.
Bureaucracy is not best suited in the competitive business world which embraces organizational change through technology and diversity in organizational workforce.
Personal principles which are critical in organizational learning and change are suppressed in bureaucracy thence the need for post bureaucratic management practices.
Nee & Opper (2009)
Bureaucratic management is favored in the administration of a number of sensitive sectors like the financial markets.
Bureaucratic management utilizes methodological procedures which enhances capital accounting in financial markets.
The risks inherent in non procedural tendencies are minimized in bureaucratic management.
Public trust in the sensitive sectors is boosted by the prevailing level of bureaucracy in the financial institutions.
Corporate development is enhanced through bureaucratic management. Financial security brought about by bureaucracy boosts investment.
Bureaucracy ensures fair treatment of all organizational actors.
Bureaucracy only focuses on long term goals in organizational procedures. It is not favorable in fragmented managerial practices which are common in modern management practices for example project management.
Bureaucracy not favored in the current economy which is market oriented.
McKenna,Garcia-Lorenzo & Bridgman (2010)
Most aspects of de-bureaucratization are only improvements of the principles of bureaucracy to the shifting role of management.
Bureaucracy remains to be the central pillar in management even in the modern management era which seeks to improve management to adapt to modern challenges.
Organizations are seeking to move away from the bureaucratic tendencies in management. Bureau dopes not support organizational bond. These bonds result from informal relations that are discouraged in bureaucratic administration.
Bureaucracy has highly centralized operations which are discouraged in modern management. Operations in modern management are being decentralized to encourage work efficiency and effectiveness.
Bureaucracy discourages dialogue and consensus building in organizations.
In bureaucratic management, responsibilities are only assigned on the basis of hierarchy and not ability.
Bureaucracy closes down the diverse channels of communication in organizations thus minimizing the work output level of organizations.
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