After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Features of Bureaucratic Organisation 2. Significance of Bureaucratic Organisation 3. Limitations.
Features of Bureaucratic Organisation:
Weber highlighted the following features of an ideal bureaucracy:
(a) Division of labour:
In a bureaucratic organisation, jobs are broken into smaller units where each person carries out a specialised task. Work is divided on the basis of specialisation. Each unit knows the areas in which it operates, its area of competence and the area in which it should not step.
(b) Scalar chain:
Business follows a hierarchy of authority where orders flow from top to bottom and obedience flows from bottom to top. Hierarchy facilitates communication, coordination and control within the organisation. Each lower unit is controlled by the higher unit and, thus, control is facilitated throughout the organisation. Scalar chain also facilitates delegation as authority moves from higher to lower levels.
(c) Appointments on the basis of merit:
All appointments or selections are based purely on merit on the jobs.
(d) Formal rules and procedures:
Rules and regulations are in writing to ensure uniformity, coordination and consistency in behaviour. These rules are stable and provide continuity and predictability to organisational behaviour. Every person knows the outcome of his behaviour in specific situations.
Rules maintain uniformity and coordination amongst actions of organisational members. Though for most of the business situations, rules provide reference for decision-making, if for any matter, there is no rule, the matter is reported upwards for decision-making and the decision becomes the basis for future action.
All individuals are treated at par irrespective of their position and status. This ensures impartiality in managing people and events. Relationships are governed through rules and official authority and decision-making are guided by rational factors rather than personal factors, both inside and outside the organisation.
(f) Professional officials:
Managers are not owners of the units they manage. They are the career-oriented qualified, competent officials who work for salary. They are the paid whole-time employees of the organisation, appointed on the basis of merit, governed by rules and regulations who do not have personal, vested interest in the organisation.
(g) Official records:
All decisions and activities of the organisation are formally maintained in official records and preserved for future reference. Weber’s ideal bureaucracy, thus, treated organisation structures with well-defined tasks and authority-responsibility relationships which are uniformly followed by all members irrespective of their personal or official positions.
Significance of Bureaucratic Organisation:
Bureaucratic organisations have the following merits:
1. These organisations are rational and, therefore, ideal forms of organisations. Rationality leads to efficiency of operations.
2. Managing organisations through formal chain of command, by highly qualified and skilled managers leads to optimum utilisation of resources.
3. Depersonalisation of management functions results in uniformity of operations and fair and equal treatment of all the workers.
4. Bureaucratic structures not only increase organisational efficiency (through knowledge, unity of command, individual subordination, less frictions and tensions etc.) but also facilitate growth of large-scale organisations.
Limitations of Bureaucratic Organisation:
1. Too much emphasis on formal rules and procedures ignores the social needs, desires and sentiments of human beings.
2. It hampers human creativity and innovativeness as there is impersonal approach in dealing with people. This affects personal growth and development of employees. Human beings have emotions and slight deviation in rules sometimes can be effective in decision-making. However, bureaucratic organisations do not allow this flexibility.
3. It ignores the role of ‘informal organisation’ which both supplements and complements formal organisations in achieving the formal goals.
4. The hierarchy of authority denies the benefits of open communication. This may not bring the desired level of efficiency.
5. Strict adherence to rules, regulations and procedures makes the rules an end. The organisation structures tend to become procedure-oriented rather than goal-oriented.
People are judged on the basis of how well they observe the rules and not the results. The rules may, thus, become the objectives and objectives may become secondary.
If the performance of a department is measured on the basis of whether or not it has spent the amount allocated in the budget for a specific period, the focus of the department will be more on spending the budgeted amount rather than the purpose for which the amount is spent. This may not always be productive for the organisation.
6. Division of jobs into specific categories creates water tight compartments amongst the jobs and complicates their control and coordination. People become so specialised in their tasks that they do not see beyond their activities to coordinate them with activities of rest of the organisation.
7. Putting rules and regulations in writing delays processing of work.
8. It leads to conflict between the organisation and individuals. People want to work in open and interactive environment and use their innovative abilities at the work place but organisation over emphasises rules and regulations. A bureaucratic organisation, thus, works against the basic nature of human beings.
9. It has a closed system perspective where organisations have no or little interaction with the environment. It assumes rigid organisation structure which is not adaptive to environmental changes. Everything is done according to rules.
Modern organisations operate in the dynamic environment and constantly interact with the environment to survive in the long-run. There is constant inflow and outflow of information to the environment. Bureaucratic organisation structure is, thus, not suitable in the contemporary volatile and dynamic environment.
In this regard, it is asserted that Weber did not suggest good or bad bureaucracy. Neither did he assert that ‘ideal bureaucracy’ existed in practice. Robert M. Fulmer states: “Weber was suggesting that an efficient model for large operations consisted in simply setting up a bureau for each important job. He evidently did not foresee the abuses that could proliferate when organisations began to outgrow the men who made them.”
Weber was the first to develop a formal and systematic concept of authority and his assumption that rational and efficient economic behaviour dominates human activity holds good in most of the organisations even today.