6.1 Characteristics of the Bureaucracy
Certain general characteristics are found in any large organization carrying out a wide variety of activities. Specialization, hierarchical organization and formal rules, are some of the requirements for the smooth functioning of a bureaucracy.
Differences in activities are recognized and specific duties are assigned to an individual (or group of individuals) depending on his training or expertise. Therefore these specialized tasks are carried out by personnel who have full knowledge of the special problems involved. However, the only demerit of such specialization of work is that these bureaucrats are unable to handle any task outside the scope of their particular work.
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6.1b Hierarchical Organization
Hierarchy is the basic structure of a bureaucracy.
It comprises of different levels. Each lower unit is under the control
and supervision of a higher one. Since each level has its respective
responsibilities and authority clearly spelt out, each individual
in the organization knows his place.
6.1c Formal Rules
The activities in a bureaucracy are carried out according to general rules, which are applied impartially by the bureaucrats, in particular cases. These are a set of directions for every level and are framed for the use of persons working at that particular level. These rules may be known as standard operating procedures (SOP) and are printed in procedure manuals. They help in saving a considerable amount of time while making necessary decisions.
However, some problems regarding the use of prescribed rules are bound to arise. For instance, an excessive specialization of tasks makes it impossible for the bureaucrat to take a holistic view of issues. Moreover, bureaucracy comes in the way of a democratic approach to the handling of matters. The personnel at the lower level have to abide by the orders given by those at the higher level without being able to question them. Further, staff in the lower rungs of the hierarchy, may not be able to make the executives at the top, realize their problems.
6.1d Total Quality Management
This is a technique borrowed from manufacturing that enables workers and managers to work as a team. This results in a considerable improvement of the quality of the work product. This particular method involves breaking through the otherwise staid hierarchy of an organization and enables the workers and the managers to come on an equal footing as well as respond to customer demands.