Chapter 2 -- Organizations as Machines
Machines now influence virtually every aspect of our existence. The use of machines has radically transformed the nature of productive activity and has left its mark on the imagination, thoughts, and feelings of humans throughout the ages. We have leaned to use the machine as a metaphor for ourselves and our society organizations that are designed and operated as if they were machines are now usually called bureaucracies. The origins of mechanistic organization
Organizations are instruments created to achieve other ends. Organization comes from the Greek organon which means tool or instrument. With the invention and proliferation of machines (the industrial revolution) the concepts of organization became mechanized. Division of Labor became intensified and specialized as manufacturers reduced discretion of workers in favor of control by their machines and supervisors. German sociologist Max Weber observed the parallels between the mechanization of industry and the proliferation of bureaucratic forms of organization. Bureaucratic form routinizes the process of administration exactly as the machine routinizes production. Bureaucracy- form of organization that emphasizes precision, speed, clarity, regularity, reliability, and efficiency achieved through the creation of a fixed division of tasks, hierarchical supervision, and detailed rules and regulations. Weber was concerned about the effect the bureaucracy would have on the human side of society. Classical management theorists focused on the design of the total organization while scientific managers focused on the design and management of individual jobs. Classical management Theory: Designing Bureaucratic Organizations: Management is a process of planning, organization, command, coordination, and control. Classical theorists design the organization exactly as if they were designing a machine (Organization is conceived as a network of parts). Classical theorists sought to ensure that when commands were issued from the top of the organization they would travel throughout the organization in a precisely determined way to create a precisely determined effect. Classical theorists gave relatively little attention to the human aspect of organization. Scientific Management
Fredrick Taylor pioneered scientific management. He advocated five simple principles: 1.
Shift all responsibility for the organization of work from the worker to the manager. 2.
Use scientific methods.
Select the best person to perform the job.
Train the worker to do the work efficiently.
Monitor worker performance
Taylor advocated the use of time-and-motion study. Taylor's system rationalized the workplace so that it could be "manned" by interchangeable workers. The science of ergonomics studies the use of energy in the workplace. Strengths and limitations of the machine metaphor:
Early theorists believed that they had discovered the principles which would solve managerial problems forever. Mechanistic approaches to organization work well only under conditions where machines work well: a)
When there is a straightforward task to perform
When the environment is stable enough to ensure that the products produced will be appropriate ones c)
When one wishes to produce exactly the same product time and again d)
When precision is at a premium
When the human "machine" parts are compliant
Mechanistic approaches to organizations have severe limitations: a)
Can create organizational forms that have great difficulty in adapting to changing circumstances b)
Can result in mindless and unquestioning bureaucracy c)
Can have unanticipated and undesirable consequences as the interests of those working in the organization take precedence over the goals of the organization d)
Can have dehumanizing effects upon employees
Information often gets distorted as people hide errors and the...
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