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The Organizational Functions3 Organizational Structure and Mechanistic Functions3 Strengths and Weaknesses5 Global Implications6 Conclusions7 References8 The Organization as a Machine Introduction The big picture is that many organizations function as machines, whether entirely or contained within business divisions within organizations.
Morgan discusses eight areas within which we discuss the functionality of organization: as a machine; as an organism; a brain; its culture; its political system; as a psychic prison; change/in flux; and as an instrument of domination. An Organization as a Machine Two examples of organizations functioning as a machine and classified as a bureaucracies are the federal government and the public education system in Delaware. As Morgan so aptly describes Max Weber’s comparison between “…the mechanization of industry and the proliferation of bureaucratic forms of organization.
The emphasis on …bureaucracy…emphasizes precision, speed, clarity, regularity, reliability, and efficiency achieved through the creation of a fixed division of tasks, hierarchical supervision, and detailed rules and regulations” (Morgan, p17). Speed, in this writer’s opinion, seems to be dependent on the situation, but government and the education industry especially, present excellent examples of bureaucracy at its best. Organizational Structure and Mechanistic Functions
Having been involved in the education industry for many years, this arena is discussed relative to its machine-like functionality and bureaucratic behaviors. A typical public school district is the example, as private and/or charter schools, although schools, function a bit differently…yet still use some of the bureaucratic procedures. The District Office governs public schools in Delaware. Within this facility, financing, human resources, and policy generation begins. Each district maintains a school board whose members the community within a particular district elects.
Both the district office and the school board have sets of policies and procedures that they follow in order to enact business on a daily basis. The employees of a school district include a Superintendent (CEO), on down to the secretarial staff. Each school within the district has a principal, assistant principal, office staff, teachers, and students. The discussion of curriculum change will present one small piece of the puzzle relative to how a school district functions.
One must keep in mind that at every move a school district makes, whether to hire a teacher, enroll a student, or a myriad of other activities occur on a daily basis, protocol must be followed. In order to implement something as fairly simple as a change in curriculum for any particular subject, hierarchy, and protocol is the order of the day. What would seem to be a straightforward task becomes bogged down in the bureaucratic procedures and weighs down the possible purchase and implementation of a new curriculum.
Although this writer does not take the implementation of new curriculum lightly, the process is laborious at best. A department to their department chair must present data; this information moves forward to a curriculum supervisor (if one exists within the district) or the district office for review. If approved, the finances and implementation are then discussed. Although not necessarily speedy and/or efficient, most districts must follow this procedure. Once the approval for the curriculum is provided, the financing is then arranged.
The finance discussion for any new curriculum does not occur until the approval for the curriculum is reached. This, in and of itself, is something that can shut down the purchase, yet in most cases, the available funding is not discussed until the need arises. A bit backwards in this writer’s opinion, but this the procedure as they exist. Within the financing discussion, there are various ‘pots’ of money, none of which can be interchanged…unlike a general corporation that can, in many cases, move money from one category to another.
If there is no money available to spend on curriculum, although approved, there will be no purchase of any new curriculum. Discussions will include, but are not limited to implementation plans, trainings, and number of teachers/students involved. A bill becoming a law within the Federal government follows a pathway within which there are twelve (12) specific steps that an initial draft bill must travel through in order to become a law…and within each step, depending on the outcome of that step, can stop the forward movement at any time…this, just an infinitesimal component of government policies and procedures.
Strengths and Weaknesses One of Fayol’s beliefs was that a change in rules is acceptable to accommodate a set of circumstances/changes within an organization wherein the original rule was no longer effective or possibly counterproductive. Every rule or managerial procedure, which strengthens the body corporate or facilitates its functioning has a place among the principles so long, at least, as experience confirms its worthiness. A change in the state of affairs can be responsible for change of rules which had been endangered by that state (Fayol, 1949).
Although changing the procedure for purchase and implementation of a new curriculum would not only streamline the process, but also eliminate time wasted, no change appears to be part of any discussion…at least not in Delaware. It would seem a simple change to determine if funding is available prior to going through the data collection and movement up the chain of command. The process can take months and countless hours of time spent only to discover that, although the research warrants a change, the funding is not available.
This represents only one small cog in the wheel of bureaucratic protocol that exists within the public school system in Delaware. Protocols are strengths in any organization. Policies and procedures provide for a structure, that if it is idiosyncratic to the organization, provides a comfort level within which day-to-day functions operate, such as knowing the protocol to file a complaint in a court system. The weakness, of course, is when one or more of these policies, procedures,
This metaphor works very well under specific circumstances, but clearly not in others. Strengths, as Morgan presents work well when a straightforward task is presented; a stable environment that produces appropriate products; repeated production of the same thing; where precision is required; and when the human capital involved is compliant and act as they are told to (Morgan, p. 27). If one accepts this notion, than one would assume that nothing outside of these situations would function well within the context of the machine metaphor.
Global Implications The world as it exists today, functions as a global economy. In general terms, we need to understand that this type of economy includes the integration of production and consumption in all markets across the world. Not all cultures function the same way – from their language to daily protocols and procedures. To this end, a transaction using a strict machine metaphor could end in disaster. Conclusion In order for organizations to function in a way that continues to be beneficial, one strict pathway is limiting.
Organizations must be able to consistently review and analyze policies and procedures in a way that accounts for the type of organization, the organization’s market (national/global), and the human capital within the organization. It is not enough to fill a slot with an individual, but rather an organization must look from within and decide what positions it needs to be successful. Change must be accepted, but only implemented when necessary…not just for the sake of change. An organization must be fluid and always looking to its competition and market…for an organization to remain within a strict machine based philosophy may very well, be its demise.