What is a Bureaucracy? What are the advantages and disadvantages for an organisation of this type of organisational structure.

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Introduction

What is a Bureaucracy? What are the advantages and disadvantages for an organisation of this type of organisational structure A bureaucracy is a type of organisational structure that is found in many large-scale organisations. It appears in both public and private organisations and is a structure that still exists in the majority of industrial organisations in the world, despite being around since the 18th century. Ideally bureaucracy is characterised by hierarchical authority relations, defined spheres of competence subject to impersonal rules, recruitment by competence, and fixed salaries. The main aims of a bureaucracy are to be rational, efficient, and professional. German sociologist, Max Weber was the most important student of bureaucracy, and he described bureaucracy as technically superior to all other forms of organization. Weber did not give an exact definition of what bureaucracy is, but he did attempt to identify what he believed to be the main characteristics of this type of organisation. According to Weber in a bureaucracy the tasks of an organisation are allocated as official duties among various positions.

Middle

The clear-cut criteria of a bureaucratic system enables the organisation to appoint successors when an employee leaves with out little trouble, and therefore causes as little disruption as possible. Bureaucracies also enable individual cases to be evaluated in terms of a well-developed rule-system, and offer the organisation consistency on decision-making and to a certain extent prevents preferential treatment. Although the bureaucratic system is a very effective way of structuring an organisation it does also offer various drawbacks. Due to the bureaucratic systems being well suited to predictable and stable situations, they are not very flexible and therefore find it hard to deal with conditions of change. The rules of a bureaucracy are very rigid and are designed to achieve organisational objectives. However due to the rigidity it may obstruct the attainment of goals and lose sight of its overall organisational objectives. Another characteristic of a bureaucracy is the individuality of its employees. Although this can have a positive effect on the organisation it could also cause alienation and sense of purposelessness from workers within the system.

Conclusion

Professional Bureaucracy is rational discipline imposed by employees rather than external influences. Amongst others Universities, hospitals and public accounting firms use the professional bureaucratic structure. Professional bureaucracies rely on skilled employees throughout the organisation, which therefore makes them de-centralised. In order to for the professional bureaucratic system to be used effectively the organisation needs to be stable throughout. As apposed to machine bureaucracy that contains a majority of unskilled workers, professional bureaucracy contains mostly skilled workers who are trained to learn difficult tasks establishing a well-defined job. Employees in a professional bureaucracy are offered more power than those in machine and left to make important decisions on their own. Although bureaucratic systems have come under quite a lot of criticism, the majority of the world's large-scale organisations contain at least some of the features of a bureaucracy. The number of bureaucratic systems is on the rise, mainly due to increasing size and complexity of organisations, and although it does offer some drawbacks if organised correctly it can be a very effective and efficient way of running an organisation.

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