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Chapter 2

POLS 2250 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Bureaucracy, Scientific Management, Heredity

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 2250
Tim Mau

of 3
POLS: Public Administration Chapter 2
- Investigate the basic structures that constitute the bureaucratic organization in
government and their interactions with the other bodies in the political process.
- Examination of theories of organization, theories grapple with the challenge of
offering clear and accurate descriptions of organizational forms.
- Put forward suggestions for enhancing the performance of organizations and
ensuring that services are provided more fairly and efficiently. Above all,
theories of organization offers us the framework for better explaining the
behavior or operation of various structures that may arise in public
- Chapter focuses on Max Weber and the feature of traditional bureaucratic
organizations and thoughts about the place of bureaucracy in society and
- Characteristics of Weberian Bureaucracy:
- Hierarchical structure: unity of command, clear line of authority and each
person only answers to 1 superior.
- Specialization of labor: people become more efficient when able to concentrate
on a specific job
- Employment and Promotion based on merit: people not given positions based
on favor (i.e. heredity, outright purchase, bribery, etc…)
- Full-time Employment: ensures the person does not need to seek another job.
All attention is devoted to the public service
- Decisions based on impersonal rules: bound by certain rules that apply equally
to all
- Importance of Written files
- Employment is separate from the individual bureaucrat’s life: power lies in the
position, not the person themselves
- Although Weber foresaw many problems with bureaucracy (appointed
individuals could potentially hold influence over elected officials for instance)
he still believed it to be the most efficient form of organization
- Central challenge of a society was to propose practices that oppose the
machinery of bureaucracy and keep a portion of humanity free from this
pigeon-holing of the spirit from this total domination of the bureaucratic ideal
- Criticisms of Weber:
- Dwelt too much on the structural aspects and not enough on human side of
- Informal systems of authority may emerge and effectively displace the formal
- Emphasis on the strict division of labour increases the chances that workers will
becomes bored with doing the same thing every day
- Must be careful however, to not see Weber’s democracy as an organizational
- Taylor and Scientific Management:
- Dealing with the problem of slacking off or ‘soldiering’
- Natural tendency of employees to do as little work as possible
- Work sometimes arranged in such an awkward manner that no reasonable
human being, regardless of how ambitions could perform what was expected
- “Rate-busters” never benefited. If someone worked hard to pass a quota one day
the quota was raised to the new level the next day
- In order to reduce soldiering quotas must not be raised arbitrarily
- Establish scientific standards: measure the rate of employees who work
exceptionally well
- Emphasis on finding the “one best way” of doing things
- Canadian Experience: from patronage to merit
- Civil Service Commission: guardian of the merit principle
- Scientific management approach to make it possible to match, in a mechanical
fashion, the skills required with the skills of the potential candidate
- Gulick and Urwick: Scientific Theory of Organization:
- Span of control, ideal structure, and proper alignment
- Span of Control: number of subordinates who report to one supervisor
- Too narrow leads to too many supervisors
- Wider span avoids these problems and makes top down communication easier,
but loses close supervision
- Appropriate Span of Control depends on several things:
- Nature of the work
- Level of training of the subordinates
- Extent of geographical decentralization
- Overall stability of the organization
- Organization of Duties:
- Workers characterized in 4 ways:
- Purpose
- Process
- Persons
- Place
- Employees who had all four things in common would be grouped together in the
same organizational unit
- Governments are most often organized by purpose
- Staff and Line Functions:
- Job of the executive summed up by PODSCORB: planning, organizing, directing,
staffing, coordinating, reporting, budgeting
- Line function: directly involved in producing and distributing the goods or
services provided by the organization
- Staff Function: aids, advises, and supports the employees providing the line
- Simon and Proverbs of Administration:
- “Fatal defect of the current principles of administration that, like proverbs, they
occur in pairs. For almost every principle one can find an equally plausible and
acceptable contradictory principle. Although the two principles of the pair will
lead to exactly opposite organizational recommendations, there is nothing in the
theory to indicate which is the proper one to apply.”
- I.e. “he who hesitates is lost” and “look before you leap” contradict each other
- Must rely on judgment and discretion
- Ideas should not be discarded because they all have real value in certain cases
- Decentralization: placing a real discretionary authority in the outlying unit
- Deconcentration: suggests a physical dispersion of members of the organization
with only very limited delegation of decision-making authority