Simon, Herbert A. (1946). The Proverbs of Administration. In J. M. Shafrits & A.C. Hyde (Eds.), Classics of public administration (6th ed.) (pp. 124-137). Boston, MA: Thompson Wadsworth.
In Herbert Simon’s “The Proverbs of Administration” he begins outlining what he describes as the “accepted administrative principles” (p. 124). These principles state that administrative efficiency is increased by specialization of tasks among members of a group, unity of command, limiting the span of control at any one point in the hierarchy and by grouping the workers according to purpose, process, clientele and place. He then goes on to detail specific examples of how each principle could be tested in real world administrative situations for validity. Simon subjects each principle in turn to a very critical analysis beginning with specialization. He describes specialization as a “deceptive simplicity” and conveys that the fundamental problem with specialization is that it is ambiguous and he leads the reader to determine that the principle of specialization is “of not help at all” in deciding how to specialize to improve efficiency (p. 125) Turning to unity of command, Simon points out that this principle is simply “incompatible with the principle of specialization” (p. 125). If using the specialization principal, then the specialist would be looked upon for the decisions, not the person in command as the unity of command principal would require. Span of control contradictions are highlighted by Simon by describing how both an increase and a decrease in the span of control could increase or decrease efficiency in an organization. Lastly, Simon evaluates organization by purpose, process, clientele and place. In this principle, organization based on one aspect would be to the detriment of the remaining three. In each evaluation Simon provides either contradictory solutions that meet the requirement of the proverb in question...
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