Bureaucracy and Scientific Management Are Still Relevant for Understanding Organisations

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Bureaucracy, which is an important model of organization defined by rules and series of hierarchical relationships, has been the dominant role for understanding organization for decades (Grey, 2007). Since the 1960s, numerous criticisms in mainstream thinking keep emerging toward the bureaucracy asserted that the imminent death of bureaucracy is coming because the defects associated with applying rules would lead to several problems such as poor employee motivation and goal-displacement. In view of this, the implication of a move from bureaucracy to post-bureaucracy has emerged and it is being depicted as a new label of flexible specialization in volatile market. Based on trust and empowerment, post-bureaucracy and other terms including post-hierarchical, post-fordism and post-modern organization are also employed in the same sense (McSweeney, 2006). While some expert judge that the post-bureaucracy are actually more rhetorical than real and it has its own problems such as the risk, unfairness and loss of control, others highlight that the advent of the new post-bureaucratic era is still arriving since the market has been experienced a moving from mass production towards niche production in today’s business environment.

While it can not be denied that the concern on the aspect of its design and efficiency in mainstream thinking toward the bureaucracy did lead to some problems in a sense, this essay will attempt to demonstrate that the bureaucracy is still relevant for understanding organizations in current business environment and the existence of post-bureaucracy should be questioned. In order to demonstrate this, according to the mainstream thinking, critiques towards bureaucracy at different perspectives and the feasibility of post-bureaucracy will be discussed at the beginning. Then it will argue the limitation of the mainstream thinking and how bureaucracy can still be relevant for understanding organizations by using examples from literatures.

According to Weber, rational-legal is the basis of bureaucracy and it becomes widely adopted because it refers to a highly efficient form of organization while critiques towards the bureaucracy in mainstream thinking are basically to do with the aspect of its design and efficiency in contrast. In the popularist critiques, bureaucracy is viewed as a form of organization which is like a predictable machine with standard operations and leads to the unnecessary delay and excessive obsession with rules. Based on the mainstream thinking, Grey (2007) summarized some important problems from the popularist critiques related with the inertia and ‘Red Tape’ mentality. Specifically, because simply following the rules in bureaucracy gives rise to have little personal commitment and low interest for the workers in the organization, job satisfaction and responsibility in their minds will not be guaranteed and leads to a poor motivated customer service as well as the procrastination in paper work. In the view of the customers, due to the impersonal rules from bureaucracy, sometimes it facilitated the employees in organizations to be ‘jobsworth’ and lead to ‘buck-passing’ by hiding behind the rules when no decision is being made towards a rule-against problem until ‘authority’ comes because the typical mind in their heads. However, some managerialists such as Crozier (1964, cited in Grey, 2007) and Gouldner (1954, cited in Grey, 2007) might deal a blow to the idea that bureaucracy is rigid and impersonal because rules sometimes are completely ignored by employees in their observation. For example, safety regulations as well as equal opportunities regulations in organizations are usually being ignored because they are viewed as a commonplace and sometimes the inconvenience would get in the way of the their jobs. But it was not assured that whether the result of the observation is suit to the organizations in other industries. Yet, more overriding controversial problem in bureaucracy is the...
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