Chapter 2: PublicAdmin and Organization Theory: The Structural Foundation
We investigate the basic structures that constitute the bureaucratic organizations in government
and their interactions with other bodies in the political process. It also means taking a close look
at some of the essential duties of public bureaucracies. Theories grapple with the challenge of
offering clear and accurate descriptions of organizational forms. They also put forward
suggestions for enhancing the performance of organizations and ensuring that services are
provided more fairly and efficiently. Theories of organization offer us the framework for better
explaining the behaviour or operation of various structures that may arise in public admin.
Max Weber and Classical Bureaucratic Theory
The first person who systematically studied the emerging phenomenon of bureaucracy was a
German scholar named Max Weber, who was born in 1864. He believed there were three sources
1. Traditional authority – the right to rule or exercise authority legitimated by such factors
as heredity, religious beliefs, or divine right.
2. Charismatic authority – based on the outstanding personal characteristics of an individual
3. Legal or rational authority – legitimated by rules and regulations obeyed by both rulers
Characteristics of Weberian Bureaucracy
The modern bureaucratic form consisted of a number of related characteristics. When combined
in the same organization, the result was what he called the pure or “ideal-type” bureaucracy.
Can also be described as the unity of command, which means for each position in the hierarchy,
there is only one supervisor. The clear line of authority produced by unity of command was one
reason Weber felt that bureaucracy was more efficient than previous forms of organization
Specialization of Labour
Division of responsibilities was significant because a person could become very efficient when
able to concentrate on a specific job.
Employment and Promotion Based on Merit There was an assurance of competence. Employment and promotion based on an objective test of
merit provided this assurance and thus increased the efficiency of operation
Employment in the bureaucracy was full-time activity and major source of income of the official.
It ensured that the official would develop allegiance to the bureaucracy and that the bureaucrat’s
hierarchical superior could exercise real control over the day to day activities of the official.
Decision Based on Impersonal Rules
If a particular benefit is to be provided without regard to race or religion, then a member of the
bureaucracy would risk severe penalties if he or she allowed personal prejudice to affect the
decision made. This reliance on impersonal rules increases confidence in the bureaucracy by
establishing a regime of certainty in dealings.
Importance of Written Files
Prove that he or she has abided by the rules in making decisions, then he or she must maintain
written records, first, of the rules themselves, and second, of all decisions made and the rationale
for those decisions. The bureaucrats allegiance to the rules take precedence over allegiance to his
or her superior.
Bureaucratic Employment is Separate from the Individual Bureaucrats Private Life
It is always clear that the power is attached to the position rather than the individual. The
bureaucrat is not permitted to obtain any personal gain, other than a fixed salary, from his or her
Webers Views on Bureaucracy
He agreed that bureaucracy was the most efficient method of organization; however he foresaw
many of the problems familiar to anyone who interacts with the bureaucratic organizations.
Weber understood that the technical superiority of bureaucratic official might put them in a
position to overwhelm leaders of the organization. He feared that the bureaucratic vales of order
and security might prevail over those which we cherish and see as essential to an open, thriving
Criticisms of Weber
Amajor line of criticism is that Weber dwelt too much on the structural aspects of bureaucracy
and not enough on the human side of the organization. It is suggested that because Weber viewed
bureaucrats as mere cogs in the mechanism, he overstated the impact of the organization on
workers and overlooked the effect of the worker on the organization. The term “red-tape” arises from this excessive obedience to requirements and regulations as does the reluctance of
bureaucracies to consider changes in their operation.
Others criticise weber because of perceived internal inconsistencies in his model of bureaucracy.
The model relies on professional or expert decision making to ensure efficiency, but it is possible
that superiors may lack the knowledge to make the best decision. To be productive, organizations
require fewer rules, less hierarchy, and employees free to innovate and meet the challenges of an
increasingly complex and competitive world.
Ahierarchical organization can soon produce so many levels that it becomes difficult to operate
within the firm or government or to comprehend its overall structure. The emphasis on a strict
division of labour increases the chances that workers will become bored with doing the same
activity every day. It is also easy to require that people be hired and promoted on merit, but
measuring merit can be difficult when trying to include all social differences. Full time
employment also appears to ignore the cost advantages of part time or casual workers and a
government agency can effectively choke on the presence of too many files.
Some contend that bureaucracy and it qualities of hierarchy, specialization, and standardization
represent a necessary condition for achieving sound management in government.
Fredrick W. Taylor and Scientific Management
F.W. Taylor, born in 1856, was a mechanical engineer who began his career working as a
technician on the factory floor and spent much of his later life in either a supervisory or an
advisory capacity dealing with problems of production management. His major concern was the
proper arrangement of the human and mechanical resources of the factory so as to minimize
waste, particularly waste of workers time.
He posited two reasons for this behaviour:
1. What he regarded as the natural tendency of employees to do as little work as possible.
2. Work was sometimes arranged in such an awkward manner that no reasonable human
being could physically perform what was expected by superiors.
The obvious solution to the problem was to establish scientific standards based on the proven
physical capacities of workers and then refrain from adjusting those standards arbitrarily.
This was the beginning of the time-and-motion study that has stirred so much controversy on
factory floors. The purpose of these studies was to lean the ideal method of performing a
particular task from the most efficient employees. This is the “one best way” employed by Frank
and Lillian Gilbreth. Taylor pointed out that workers could be more productive if management took greater care in
organizing the work. He put particular emphasis on such factor as determining the optimal
working rhythm necessary to maximize output.
Taylor also emphasised the importance of financial factors as a motivating force.
Some writers suggest that Taylor showed a lack of concern for the workers. It is clear that we
view management as very enlightened and workers in a rather condescending manner.
Taylor’s main contribution to organization theory was his emphasis on the scientific approach to
work management and his emphasis on the important role of manage