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have continued to suggest that bureaucracy is inherently unethical, outdated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. Then finally, it analyses critical approaches
to bureaucracy, in order to analyse whether…
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.
for most organizations, these circumstances do not exist. In industries where
adaptation to market condition is vital for survival, ‘bureaucratic inertia’
(cite) will result in organizations stagnating and failing to compete.