Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

6.3 Ways in which these features affect learning processes and/or application of learning are described and discussed.

ryanrori December 29, 2020

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The Entrepreneurial Start-up (the simple structure)

The simple structure is characterised, above all, by what is not elaborated. Typically, it has little or no techno-structure, few support staffers, a loose division of labour, minimal differentiation among its units, and a small managerial hierarchy. Little of its behaviour is formalised, and it makes minimal use of planning, training, and liaison devices.

Coordination in the simple structure is effected largely by direct supervision. Specifically, power over all important decisions tends to be centralised in the hands of the chief executive officer. Thus, the strategic apex emerges as the key part of the structure; indeed, the structure often consists of little more than a one-person strategic apex and an organic operating core.

Most organisations pass through the simple structure in their formative years. The environment of the simple structure tends to be at one and the same time simple and dynamic. A simple environment can be comprehended by a single individual, and so enables decision making to be controlled by that individual. A dynamic environment means organic structure: Because its future state cannot be predicted, the organisation cannot effect coordination by standardisation.

Another condition common to simple structures is a technical system that is both non-sophisticated and non-regulating. Sophisticated ones require elaborate staff support structures, to which power over technical decisions must be delegated, and regulating ones call for bureaucratisation of the operating core.

The Machine Bureaucracy

A clear configuration of the design parameters has held up consistently in the research: highly specialised, routine operating tasks; very formalised procedures in the operating core; a proliferation of rules, regulations, and formalised communication throughout the organisation; large-sized units at the operating level; reliance on the functional basis for grouping tasks; relatively centralised power for decision making; and an elaborate administrative structure with sharp distinctions between line and staff.

Because the machine bureaucracy depends primarily on the standardisation of its operating work processes for coordination, the techno-structure – that houses the analysts who do the standardising – emerges as the key part of the structure.

Machine bureaucratic work is found, above all, in environments that are simple and stable. The work of complex environments cannot be rationalised into simple tasks, and that of dynamic environments cannot be predicted, made repetitive, and so standardised.

The machine bureaucracy is typically found in the mature organisation, large enough to have the volume of operating work needed for repetition and standardisation, and old enough to have been able to settle on the standards it wishes to use. Machine bureaucracies tend also to be identified with regulating technical systems, since these routines work and so enable it to be formalised.

The managers at the strategic apex of these organisations are concerned in large part with the fine-tuning of their bureaucratic machines. These are “performance organisations” not “problem solving” ones. Theirs is a perpetual search for more efficient ways to produce given outputs. Thus, the entrepreneur function takes on a very restricted form at the strategic apex.

The Professional Bureaucracy

The professional bureaucracy relies for coordination on the standardisation of skills and its associated design parameter, training and indoctrination. It hires duly trained and indoctrinated specialists – professionals – for the operating core, and then gives them considerable control over their work. Control over his own work means that the professional works relatively independently of his colleagues, but closely with the clients he serves. Most necessary coordination between the operating professionals is handled by the standardisation of skills and knowledge – in effect, by what they have learned to expect from their colleagues.

Whereas the machine bureaucracy generates its own standards – its techno structure designing the work standards for its operators and its line managers enforcing them – the standards of the professional bureaucracy originate largely outside its own structure, in the self-governing association its operators join with their colleagues from other professional bureaucracies. The professional bureaucracy emphasises authority of a professional nature – the power of expertise.

The strategies of the professional bureaucracy are largely ones of the individual professionals within the organisation as well as of the professional associations on the outside. The professional bureaucracy’s own strategies represent the cumulative effect over time of the projects, or strategic “initiatives,” that its members are able to convince it to undertake.

The technical system cannot be highly regulating, certainly not highly automated. The professional resists the rationalisation of his skills – their division into simply executed steps – because that makes them programmable by the techno structure, destroys his basis of autonomy, and drives the structure to the machine bureaucratic form.

Like the machine bureaucracy, the professional bureaucracy is an inflexible structure, well suited to producing its standard outputs but ill-suited to adapting to the production of new ones.

Change in the professional bureaucracy does not sweep in from new administrators taking office to announce major reforms. Rather, change seeps in by the slow process of changing the professionals – changing who can enter the profession, what they learn in its professional schools (norms as well as skills and knowledge), and thereafter how willing they are to upgrade their skills.

The Adhocracy (the innovative organisation)

In adhocracy, we have a highly organic structure, with little formalisation of behaviour; job specialisation based on formal training; a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work; a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment, the key coordinating mechanism, within and between these teams.

To innovate means to break away from established patterns. So the innovative organisation cannot rely on any form of standardisation for coordination. Of all the configurations, adhocracy shows the least reverence for the classical principles of management, especially unity of command. The adhocracy must hire and give power to experts – professionals whose knowledge and skills have been highly developed in training programs.

Unlike the professional bureaucracy, the adhocracy cannot rely on the standardised skills of these experts to achieve coordination, because that would lead to standardisation instead of innovation. Rather, it must treat existing knowledge and skills merely as bases on which to build new ones. Moreover, the building of new knowledge and skills requires the combination of different bodies of existing knowledge. So rather than allowing the specialisation of the expert or the differentiation of the functional unit to dominate its behaviour, the adhocracy must instead break through the boundaries of conventional specialisation and differentiation. Whereas each professional in the professional bureaucracy can operate on his own, in the adhocracy professionals must amalgamate their efforts. In adhocracies the different specialists must join forces in multi-disciplinary teams, each formed around a specific project of innovation.