Bureaucracy: Instrument of development in an organization

Bureaucracy: Instrument of development in an organization


Bureaucracy is an important and characteristic institution in modern societies. However, bureaucratic system has a long historical background in Europe and in Asia. There are a lot of concepts and descriptions about bureaucracy. It can be examined from different point of views. Political scientists, sociologists, management scientists and economists have had studies on bureaucracy.

The concept of Development Administration had originated in U.S.A. and as such bureaucratic systems are expected to be effective instruments to achieve objectives of development.

With their emphasis on rules and regulations, division of labour, hierarchy, role specialists, rationality, impersonally and neutrality, bureaucracy was expected to ensure smooth process of development.

In fact, bureaucracy played a key role in stability standard of integrity and professional competence. Bureaucracy supported industrialized developed nations to achieve their objectives.

But the capacity of bureaucracy to adopt to change is rather low. In developing countries where temporal dimensions play a key role in process of development, according to some thinkers, bureaucracy is a misfit.

The Weberian model is subject to the dysfunctional consequences of failing to take into consideration the individual or behavioral aspects of people who work within organizational system. It has been observed that in an unstable environment it cannot take up the challenges of situation.

Stalker identified two distinct systems of management namely mechanistic and organic and found that mechanistic system of management which relied heavily on Weberian norms cannot function in an unstable environment whereas organic system of management with its emphasis on individuals, downward and lateral communication, continuous interaction and participatory management would be suitable for unstable environment.

Much of the bureaucratic pursuit was directed towards activities other than achievements of goals whereas the need was to fulfill development programs. According to Warren Bennis, bureaucracy is likely to go out of use in changed socio-economic environment.


The principle of social organization which characterizes the twentieth-century industrial societies is “rational coordination” otherwise known as ‘Bureaucracy’. Under this form of organization, people are brought together in formal and complex settings run by professionals and experts. The professionals are called ‘Bureaucrats’ while the organizations they run are known as ‘Bureaucracies’. The modern bureaucracy at all levels of government is powerful as bureaucrats interpret laws, make policies and enforce decisions and engage in a variety of other activities that have a direct impact on the lives of citizens. From the backdrop that public administration examines the practice of governance, responsibility and ethics in politics and administration have been debated since the inception of political and administrative theories.

The importance of organizations in modern economy and development of new and large organization are facts that make the issues like efficiency and control on the centre of attention in different social sciences. Efficiency in organization is directly linked with its organizational system.

Weber    Bureaucratic Model:
Weber mentioned that his bureaucratic model is an ideal and logical model for setting up an organization. It means that the model under question is not a guideline for operating the daily works. According to his later works the model includes these basic characteristics as R.Fincham and P.Rhodes put it:
1. A staff consisting a body of employees whose full-time work was to administer the activities of the institution. As well as simply a body of people, this also consist of a people, structure of ‘offices’ such that the employee’s post carries authority over specific areas, but it is a cardinal principle that the incumbent should not overstep the bounds of the authority of the office.
2. A division of labour which assigns specific task to sub-units and individuals. The division of labour in bureaucracies is highly developed departmental boundaries and individual jobs are closely specified and duties and responsibilities carefully set out.
3. The hierarchy, division of power, involves the ranking of offices to provide clear line of command. In bureaucracy the hierarchy also is typically very complex, its many levels providing a highly differentiated structure of authority.
4. Competence refers to the basic upon which office is held. Factors like luck, favouritism, or advancement should be decided by expertise and ability alone.
5. Objectivity suggests that all dealing within the bureaucracy and with client should be conducted on the basis of equal treatment according to procedural routine. The objective conduct of business, free from any personal feeling, is the basis of the reliability of formal administration, 1970 quoted in Fincham .Rhodes 2005  ,      p.446).
Bureaucracy is one of the theories of classical approach in management. This attitude closely relates to formal organization because the idea of bureaucracy formed basically for explaining and improving the efficiency of such organisation, then for finding more precise conception from Bureaucracy it seems important to figuring out the principles of formal organisation. According to Urwick’s (1952) explanation of formal organization(quoted in Jack Rabin, W. Bartley Hildreth, Gerald Miller 2006,p.66) Ten principles must be used in building up formal organizational: (1)objective, (2)specialization, (3)coordination, (4)authority, (5)responsibility, (6)definition, (7)correspondence, (8)span of control, (9)balance , (10)continuity. From above definitions, it can be seen that the standardization, predictability, maximum efficiency are expected from formal organization.

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Advantages of Weberian conception of bureaucracy:
Bureaucracy in Weberian model like any other conceptions of business has some advantages and some disadvantages. Three features of this model here will be discuss as most important and essential features namely the concept of division of labour, the concept of hierarchy and also the concept of objectivity. As a methodological consideration it seems important to note that examining the idea of bureaucracy in terms of advantages and disadvantages can be viewed from both ethical and economical points of view. At the same time these different perspectives are related to each other by means of the concept of efficiency and the measure of satisfaction from working experience for employees. Bureaucracy by means of combination of hierarchy and division of labour can restrict the harmful forms of authorities which may lead to unfair circumstances for employees. Because in the absence of such a rational rule, a person from higher level of power can easily ignore the rights of employees and this is one of reasons we need bureaucracy for. Authority, according to Weber (In 1947 as quoted in R.J.Dwyer 2005), can come from different roots and to be acceptable it needs to be legitimise . This is the point connects the Weber’s theory of legitimised authorities with his account of bureaucracy. If some kind of illigitimised authority exist in an organisation can affect the efficiency of an active organisation. Bureaucracies is the very idea that play the role of legitimiser in organisation. The features by which bureaucracy can avoid this problem (the effects of illegitimate authority) is the idea of division of labours and hierarchical structures as crucial features of the general hypothesis of bureaucracy. Consider, for example, the condition under which there is no pre-defined hierarchy and division of labour. In such conditions that there are no division labour, persons who has higher level of authority can easily abuse the employee and there is nothing for employee by which he/she be able to argue that he/she done his duty. Because without division, labours here would not be any common and widely accepted definition of each individual in economical sphere. It seems clear that division labour makes the organisation more fair for employees and having the feeling of working in fair circumstance can cause more responsibilities in workers and employees. This point is directly related to division of power that considered as hierarchy.
The concept of objectivity indicates that the interactions between client and organisation must be structured in a way that personal feelings and judgements of employees do not play any role in operating an organisation. According to this principle client should be treated equally an just on the basis of formal and structural instruction of organisation or business. From an Ethical point of view this latter principle is so important and can offer higher degree of fairness to wider range of peoples. At the same time these different perspectives are related to each other by means of the concept of efficiency and satisfaction from working experience for employees.
The concept of division of labours in structured hierarchy (A.Bennet 2006) has also some practical advantages to enable organisations against unexpected troubles . One case of this advantage is visible when shocks or unexpected troubles accrue in a particular section of organisation, in such cases hierarchy and division of labours are features that avoid transmission of trouble or shock to the whole of system. In the absence of partitioning like division of labours and hierarchy any trouble is easy to spread through the every sections and modules. Hierarchical structure by means of monitoring can detect the trouble and origin of it and provide consideration to make other section secure against that trouble. Moreover division of labour, automatically suggest the distinction between task-oriented sections of organisation and this would be avoiding from transmissions generalisation of a specific fault.
Disadvantages of Weberian conception of bureaucracy:
One of the well-known criticism over the idea of bureaucracy says that this idea reduce the flexibility and active efficiency of organisations.This means that growing of the corpus of bureaucracy( its laws and rule) may affect the efficiency of a system and reduce the flexibility of it by getting larger and larger. (Dwyer 2005)This latter point seems to be against the essence of bureaucracy that is increasing of efficiency of organisations. Since bureaucracy is not the goal of organisation and it is just one of organisational means. This point shows that in case of bureaucracy is easy to happen that goal and means change their place. In this situation if bureaucracy becomes the goal of organisation instead of managerial device, will be the cause of reducing the efficiency of whole system.
Bureaucracies in so large forms are apparently causes of reduction of creativity among employees. Because when every specific action has previously designed to happen in just few allowed area and forms. It follows that there would be no room to have a creative way of doing routine tasks, to mention that why this is a kind of disadvantage it is useful to consider the growing sense of dissatisfaction among the employees of mechanistic organisation. And it is important to note that the mechanical thinking about business organisations comes from the idea of bureaucracy and leads to the thinking mechanistically not only about the organisation but also about peoples who work in such an organisation. (G. Morgan1995) employees often spending many hours a day on work neither value nor enjoy. Working under inflexible rules and without any creativity makes the employees unsatisfied which means less efficiency.
Bureaucracy as a large body of rules, laws, and instruction that designed for best results in terms of predicted goals remains no rooms for innovation(G.Morgan 1995). this fact means that when organisation situate in new circumstances and needs some innovative act to be adapt with new required factors.
When bureaucracy is suitable and when not?
Considering mentioned points , for achieving maximum efficiency in bureaucratic organization needs to simple and repetitive tasks and frequent process of performance, which are found in large organization .Therefore bureaucracy helps to provide more interactive and transparent corpus of production in enterprises which want to have the increase of production and the speed of production or services, for instance hospital, bank, call centre and libraries. Balle(1999) argued that despite all of criticisms on bureaucratic model, it is still applied as most efficient structure for big organizations like hospitals because of characteristics of specialization, standardization and coordination, however, this kind of organization are not completely efficient because of lack of task information, centralised control an authorization and finally he explained about the determinant role of the senior management in organization and importance of education for management.
Bureaucracies in case of innovative jobs cannot be the appropriate case. Artists, scientists, and philosophers belong to social group that its productive contribution is not so consistent with the idea of bureaucracy. Accordingly the sort of bureaucracy we need in organisations like universities should be redefined in terms of better support for more innovative activities. because the job of that social group that occur in organizations like universities, research centers, media , and etc. needs more proportion of innovation and it seems that the large form of bureaucracy cannot be so helpful for such organisation. That means they need different kind of organisational management. Hence, having a successful modern organisation without any kind of bureaucracy seems impossible and irrelevant or as Hopfl(2006) mentioned big organisations without some aspects of bureaucracy (like hierarchy) is inconceivable.




Jack Rabin, W. Bartley Hildreth, Gerald Miller.(2006) Handbook of Public Administration, 2nd ed :CRC Press pp.  62-77.

Fincham, R. and Rhodes, P.(2005) “Principle of Organization Behaviour”, 4th ed Oxford: Oxford University   Press,       P.445-467.

Morgan, G. (1995) Images of Organization .Sage.
Dwyer, R. J. (2005) Formal organizations in contemporary society, the relevance of historical perspectives Journal of management Decision, vol 43 No 9, pp1232-1248.

Bennet, A. (2006). The Learning Organization Hierarchy as a learning platform Journal of Information and knowledge management systems, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 255-260


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