Bureaucracy and Adhocracy
The main aim of any organisation is to reach certain predetermined goals. In an attempt to survive and obtain this goals effectively, certain decisions must be made as to what type of structure the organisation will posses which will entail guidance for individuals associated with the group as per their duties and day to day activities. Ultimately determining how efficiently the desired goals will be acquired. Questions this structure will need to confront will include the amount of specialisation in areas of work and responsibility, the levels of management and their consequent size, the grouping of departments together for functionality of expertise, and the kind of integrative mechanism for control over work done.
One of the more common types of organisational structures found within today’s society that has attempted to answer these questions of direction and efficiency is known as Bureaucracy. The Bureaucratic model in itself is not a functioning organisational structure within itself, but more of a hypothetical guide to creating ones own business design based on individual circumstances. Bureaucracy is very similar to such things as blue prints, simple because both are descriptive in a how to build nature, but neither is the final product.
The modern day concept of bureaucracy was developed by a German sociologist named Max Weber (Though the original term ‘bureaucracy’ evolved during the eighteenth century, and is "attributed to the Frenchman ‘de Gournay’"). Weber advanced his concept of bureaucracy throughout the nineteenth century by studying power and authority though out history, and discovered that in early societies three different types could be identified. The first was made up of ‘Traditional authority’ and was based on the belief that rulers had a natural right to rule. The second was that of ‘Charismatic authority’, whereby power was based on the belief that the ruler possessed special control over others through such things as religion (as did the Pope a decade ago) and Heroism (As Hitler possessed during the second world war). The third concentrated on ‘Legal-Rational authority’, indicating that formally written rules held certain individuals (such as prime ministers and school principles) in places of power. Using a combination of these ideas, he then developed his own concept for structuring that featured rigid hierarchical structures, defined authority, set rules and regulations, and a specification of tasks in an impersonal climate. This would then lead to work being divided into parts, allocated amongst relatively specialised workers, dispersing the responsibilities and centralising authority to a small number of administrators. This entire structure would then take the form of a pyramid, with the managers up top passing down rules to their subordinates. Because the chain of command tends to be lengthy in large organisations, the use of codified and impersonal rules would replace the need for supervision as the regulator of the quality in effort, ensuring predictability at all ends of production simply because no action would be allowed that does not "lead directly to the production of formally designated organisational ends".
Weber’s ‘Bureaucratic’ structure is very much based around a combination of his faith in the market with the view that society was the product of rational construction and the principle of legal authority having become increasingly dominant and continuing to spread. His intention was to create an entirely rational system which broke from the "nepotism, whims and fancies" of prior authoritarian systems, while at the same time being characterised by rules and legal order and coping with the changes that were taking place within society at the time, including the rise of science, the development of industrial manufacturing, capitalism and it’s systematic pursuit of profit. It was these social changes of modernity that inspired the development of the bureaucratic systems, in order to keep up with needs in the best possible way.
In today’s society, it is almost impossible not to be confront by bureaucratic structuring at least several times within normal daily activities. This is because of the enormous size of modern nations and their need for efficient organisation that does not allow for personal relations and feelings to get in the way of achieving goals. This system can usually be found in big organisations that are designed to complete numerous complicated tasks that no individual could perform alone. One of its main benefits, as intended by Weber, revolves around the "establishment of rules and regulations to increase the likelihood that employees will be treated fairly, and to create stability over time… purging the organisation of favouritism… prejudice and discrimination" (that had plagued organisations for many years prior). Bureaucracy’s highly formalised mechanism is able to standardise discipline practices by setting policies as to what areas managers have jurisdiction in making choices relating to business activities, while at the same time setting the expectation guidelines for other staff. By doing so, it allows for functionality to flow more fluently and accurately, saving scarce resources such as time and money, by allowing all members to know exactly what duties are expected of them.
The major reasons behind the success and continuation of bureaucracies stems from their ability to succeed at obtaining objectives, to work extremely well for big organisations (so much so that they surpass other such systems) their "structural features are the ones that are selectively retained because they achieve reinforcing consequences, while non-bureaucratic features are eliminated", they maintain control, and even though social environments are for ever changing - social values rarely ever changed dramatically (for example, businesses will never be anything less than goal oriented).
Unfortunately though, bureaucracy has also developing as a dirty word within the minds of many within society, because it is seen as a development at the expense of individual freedoms such as choice. As early as 1878 the ‘Nordic family encyclopedia’ described democracy as being "blind obedience and subservience to those who posses power, and the overbearing and harsh treatment of the general public". Other common complaints voiced about this structure include its impersonal nature which can be inhuman, it is rarely accessible and can subsequently become inefficient. The most general argument against such structures was developed by Robert Merton, who argued that there is a tendency for " the rules to become more important than the ends they were designed to serve, resulting in goal displacement and loss of organisational effectiveness." Examples that have been put forth in support of this argument include typical customer relations failings (which is detrimental to the main purpose of any business, which is to attend to its customers) in order to maintain other job requirements. So too, Merton argues that another fundamental failure that exists is "related closely to the problems of goal displacement and has the undesirable effect of having members’ applying formalised rules and procedures in inappropriate situations; that is, responding to a unique situation as if it were routine, resulting in dysfunctional consequences". Possible reasons for this include the forced ideology within individual minds that a rule exists for each situation, and the misinterpretation of set rules in an attempt to place structure where it evidently does not exist.
Adhocracy on the other hand is a structural system that breaks from the traditional ways of bureaucracy by not holding formal rules or regulations, is usually void of hierarchies, has no standardised procedures for dealing with routine problems, is low in formalisation and is organised for a temporary life. The major highlight of this system is its flexibility and responsiveness in dealing with all sorts of situations quickly and efficiently, particularly in dynamic environments such as computer developments.
Adhocracy was developed during the nineteen forties, specifically designed to be flexible in dealing with ever changing demands and goals. Within today’s society, these types of structural systems can be found at work in high risk organisations, newly developing industries (which are attempting to discover their direction), as well as in groups that plan on only existing for short periods of time. If the organisations continue to develop, it is most likely they will become bureaucratic in nature, only because Adhocracy is limited in its ability to cope with large groups of individuals, and the needs of ongoing big businesses.
The benefits of adhocracy lay in its ability to be adaptive and creative, while at the same time allowing for collaboration from varied specialists with very few rules which removes any hindrances and allows for individual creativeness. And with its horizontal managerial structure allowing for more interaction and collaboration, it becomes a viable alternative to bureaucracy.
"On the negative side, conflict is a natural part of adhocracy. There is no clear subordinate relationships. Ambiguities exist over authority and responsibilities. Activities cannot be compartmentalised, and in short, this system lacks the advantages of standardised work".
Both structural systems have their advantages. Each deals with situations differently. Bureaucracy on one hand is mechanical in how it approaches each problem, systematically developing answers through predetermined guidelines, while adhocracy challenges problems from a variety of angels, with no limitations as to how it will come to its final goal. When faced with changes within the environment, adhocracy will be more able to cope and adapt quickly, while bureaucracy will need more time in order to change its rules to be more suitable. But this does not mean that bureaucracy is by any means inadequate.
In more recent years, businesses have developed a collaborated approach to structuring; combining the sturdiness of bureaucracy with the flexibility of adhocracy. By having the major frame work based on strict rules and guidelines, workers on all levels have direction as to their expected responsibilities. At the same time, smaller departments within each business have been created to deal with individual cases, that vary from the overall goals set. As such, this system can have stability while at the same time dealing successfully with diversity that is brought about by changes within society.
Many theories exist as to the best structure for businesses, but unfortunately there is no one ‘best’ structure of organisation as such. The reason for this is solely because each business has different variables including size and goals, that need to be considered. Generally speaking though, with the majority of larger organisations there is a tendency for them to select a bureaucratic system mainly because it achieves set objectives well in such environments. Organisations that are beginning or only intend to complete certain tasks then dissolve, are more inclined to opt for a system such as adhocracy, that allows them certain freedoms to discover their markets and methods. Both Adhocracy and bureaucracy are only theoretical structural designs, and as such are not complete structures within themselves. They offer information to help set up guide lines in business systems, but as to how they are finally implemented depends solely on one’s interpretation, and that is why not all systems are alike.
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Written By Evan Sycamnias