Patric Cochrane, BUS2019, Understanding Work & Organisations
The ideas of the classical theorists, particularly those of bureaucracy and scientific management, are generally considered as rather old fashioned and out of date, and of little relevance to work and organisation today.
Is this really the case? Consider the above statement through a critical examination of practices which can be identified in work today. In your analysis, you should draw upon appropriate academic material, and also other sources which can help in identifying current practices. These can include your own experiences from work, those of family relatives and friends, weblogs, working life diaries, newspaper articles and other media reports.
Management and its differing theories have an extensive influence on the world of work. Understanding these theories is therefore of paramount importance to understanding how organisations perform and operate. I will be examining two main theories; bureaucratic and scientific management, in terms of their origins and how relevant they are in the workplace today.
The theory of bureaucratic management was established by the world-renowned Max Weber (1864-1920). He has been described (Grimsley 2014) as the ‘father of the bureaucratic management theory.’ Weber was a German sociologist with a profession as a political economist. Throughout his lifetime he embarked on many different studies, bureaucracy being his most notable.
His theory involved structuring an organisation into a strict hierarchy, with the most powerful and influential people at the top, right down to the workers at the bottom. The organisation was then controlled by clearly well-defined, rational-legal decision-making rules. (Grey 2005) talks in his book of how Weber thought society could be held together, stating that ‘people somehow submitted to the will of others because they believed those others had the right to give the orders.’ Within this management theory everything is meticulous, with stringent parameters on every aspect of the everyday administration of the company. A thought-provoking article (Mulder 2017) even described communications between employees as impersonal and objective.
There are further criticisms of this theory too. The term bureaucracy is acknowledged to bring with it ‘red tape’ due to the stringent guidelines surrounding most procedures. This inevitably leads to excess paperwork and therefore an increased workload for managers, resulting in an inefficient use of their valuable time. Weber also places a lot of importance on division of labour, which in turns leads to highly skilled and somewhat specialised workers. This can be good for quality of work but can result in tedious practice for the employees. Bureaucratic management structures are clearly visible today, especially within public sector organisations.
Next is the scientific management theory, fathered by the American mechanical engineer, F. W. Taylor (1856-1915). Taylor and We...