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Bureaucratic Structure

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1. Terms of reference

The purpose of this report is to present the bureaucratic structure in the Corwynt County Council Supplies Department (CC). Corwynt has a population of 600,000 people with 400,000 Welsh speakers. The Supplies Department provides purchasing services for the local police, schools, social services and buildings.

The first section of this report explains the characteristics of bureaucracies, giving examples from CC. The next section - analyses the effects that the bureaucratic structure has on individual and group working. The report concludes with recommendations to improve the current situation in CC.

2. Procedures

To compile the report variety of textbook was used, as well as online resources. Examples of CC are taken from the analysis of the case study. The report was to be completed by 14 January 2011.

3. Findings

3.1 The characteristics of Bureaucracies

Classical theorist, like Taylor and Fayol neglected the individual and personality factors in the organisation and concentrated mainly on improving management in order to improve productivity. They outlined some rules and principles: division of labour and clear functions within company, economic rewards and stability of employment, narrow span of control with optimum supervision and centralisation. All these principles were the base of bureaucratic theory, which had huge impact on different companies. Bureaucratic structure is still preserved in lots of government organisation, with CC being a great example.

In the 1930s, German sociologist, Weber claimed that the development of bureaucracies was a method of introducing order into social life. He suggested that organizations would thrive if they became bureaucracies by emphasizing legal authority, logic, and order. (Schermerhorn et al, 2004, p191) This type of organization, according to Weber,

is superior to any other form in precision, in stability, in the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability...It is finally superior both in intensive efficiency and in the scope of its operations, and is formally capable of application to all kinds of administrative tasks. (Weber, 1947 citied in Evan, 1993, p3-4)

The main characteristics of Bureaucracy with examples from Corwynt County Supplies Department are:

* Systems of rules, which creates an efficient and uniformed organisation. It allows decisions made at high levels to be executed consistently by all lower levels. Rules are set down to monitor employee behaviour. The activities to be carried out are attached to specified roles, not to particular persons. (Sofer, 1972, p9) In CC large volume of Standard Operating Procedures specifies in great detail the procedures to be followed in every possible purchasing situation.

* Impersonality. The idea is to treat all employees and customers equally and not be influenced by individual preferences. All customers must be dealt according to procedural routine - whether or not they are known to staff and they behave in a way that the staff considers valid. (Sofer, 1972, p10) In CC important issues, like late deliveries, staff treated as very minor. Clients were refused some information and staff was using procedures in rulebook as an excuse.

* Specialisation. The division of labour is highly developed, with departmental functions clearly specified. Continuity of work is guaranteed and even if an employee leaves, the job will remain. Specialisation is achieved by a precise and detailed definition of the duties and responsibilities of each position or office. (Fincham and Rhodes, 1992, 365) In CC each person has a job, very closely defined and each function area protects their own identity

* Hierarchy of authority. Each level is subject to control and supervision by the level above it. Responsibilities within each level are clearly detailed and each level has its own sphere of competence. There is a clear distinction between management and this clear structure allows all employees to understand exactly where they are within the structure and within relation to one another. (Sutherland and Canwell, 1997, p125) In CC managers tried to keep control over the organisation by use of authority and references to the rulebook. Every decision, even trivial, had to be cleared with senior personnel.

* Formal selection with employment based on technical and educational qualifications. Employees' appointment and any promotion are dependent on these qualifications and his competence displayed at work. Clear career structure means that promotion is achieved through either seniority or performance. (Sofer, 1972, p11) Senior jobs, available in CC, were generally filled by internal promotion.

* Recording. Administrative acts and decisions are recorded centrally. Record keeping provides an organisational memory and continuity over time. (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001, p489) Because of Standard Operating Procedures every action resulted in voluminous paperwork. In order to clear decisions with superior a form had to be completed.

3.2 The effects of the bureaucratic structure on individual

One of the main critics of bureaucratic system was Robert Merton.

Merton argues that bureaucratic operations, with their emphasis upon method, prudence, discipline and conformity, may have such an impact upon the bureaucrat that the adherence to rules and regulations, originally conceived as means to wider purposes, become ends in themselves. (Burell and Morgan, 1979, p184-186)

Rules help employees know what is expected of them, however strict adherence to rules becomes

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