University of Maryland University College
Bureaucracy consists of an organization characterized by: specific job functions and a strict vertical hierarchical structure. Bureaucratic structure introduced a shift in the archetype of society just before the 19th century. Max Weber, known for his thoughts on capitalism and bureaucracy, contributed greatly to this archetype. The classic bureaucratic model, according to Weber, is described as having such characteristics as: political neutrality, vertical structure, specific job responsibilities, and well-written impersonal documentation, which is used to ensure functional reliability. (Weber M. , 1978) This essay will concentrate on the vertical structure and the rigid tasks and knowledge of the bureaucratic model, to show that an organization can become too big and rigid to be effective in daily tasks.
According to Weber, “bureaucratization offers above all the optimum possibility for carrying through the principle of specializing administrative functions according to purely objective considerations.” (Weber M. , 1958) However, this takes away the human factor, which can hinder an employee from making an effective decision. This is all too clear when looking at the Veterans Benefits Administration, and how they handle their customers.
The following diagram depicts the Veterans Benefits Administration Organization (Organization Chart - Veterans Benefits Administration, 2012):
Figure 1 The Veterans Benefits Administration organization is a vertically structured government agency. The structure shows how the different regional offices do not have the means to communicate with each other. Figure provided by (http://vacriteria.tpub.com/vba_dg/vba_dg0010.htm).
Weber predicted that bureaucracy would triumph because of its ability to ensure more efficient functioning of organizations in both business and government settings. (Daft, 2010) However, in the case of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Weber may be wrong. The vertical hierarchy and strict rules prevent the different organizations from talking to each other. The example below will show that a large bureaucracy needs to be horizontally integrated along with the vertical structure to allow the employees the freedom to make decisions and communicate properly with other functional areas.
A former Air Force member decided to use his GI Bill to continue his education. He started to use his bill while living in the state of Maryland. He then moved to Indiana, where he continued to use the GI Bill without issue. However, during a semester of class, the member needed to drop a class due to job priorities. He contacted the Education Service Organization, as seen in the above chart, to let them know of his issue. They were in agreement that the class should be dropped without penalty.
A few months passed, and the member received a letter in the mail from the Eastern Regional office stating that the member owed money due to the dropping of the class earlier. The member called the helpline to explain the situation. The student was told that the regional office is separate from the education services branch and that he should have corresponded with the regional branch instead. The member went up the chain of command within the regional organization, without success. He was advised to protest the decision, which could take up to six months. The frustrated student sent in all the pertinent documents to the review board, which was located in the eastern region.
During the protest stage, the member received another letter from the Veteran Administration’s Collections Center. The student was very surprised and contacted the collections center immediately. Once the member was able to reach a person who could help, he tried to explain that he was protesting the decision that was...