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Discuss the claim that post-bureaucracies are more suitable than bureaucracies in delivering change and innovation to an organisation.
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Post Bureaucracy Versus Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is a systematic organisational structure that is hierarchical and rigid, which focusses on centralised power. This centralised power provides the organisation with the authority to direct and control employees via an autocratic leadership style. Each employee, specialises in an area, however, this specialisation can actually de-skill employees. In contrast, a post-bureaucracy employs a horizontal structure with decentralised power which enables employee empowerment (Clegg et al. 2011). This essay will argue that post-bureaucracies are better at delivering change and innovation. In the first section, by using the readings of Barker (1993), Dimitroff et al (2005) and Clegg et al (2011), I will discuss the use of concertive control as a device to deliver change and boost production. This is in contrast to the views of Weber arguing that bureaucracy is the most efficient method to manage (Clegg et al. 2011). The second section will explore the influence of soft power and its efficiency in delivering innovation compared to bureaucracy through the readings of Josserand (2006) and Coupasson et al (2012). In the last section, through the readings of Morgan (2009) and Birkinshaw (2004), I will explore the idea that change is inevitable and management can only integrate change into their system in post-bureaucracies as bureaucracies are too rigid to effectively do this.
One of the key strengths of the post- bureaucracies is their use of concertive control. This type of control shifts power from management to staff, but maintains 'corporate' control through company values. These values guide employee behaviour, for example towards improving production and delivering innovations. One such example is ISE Communications where the workers are empowered to work in small teams and are to make decisions and introduce innovations, for example, changes in the handling procedures of the organisation. Hence, concertive control through management's soft power has encouraged staff to be more involved with the product and has developed their sense of responsibility to the overall management process. Values are used to teach new team members about the existing 'rules' in the team which limits resistance (Barker 1993).
In contrast, Weber argues that a bureaucracy and 'the coercive' control exercised by its systems and rules is the most efficient method of management (Barker 1993). This is because coercive control promotes efficiency and production. An example is Ritzer's model of McDonaldisation which is a highly rationalised and cost-efficient concept using four key mechanisms: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. Efficiency refers to the implementation of the most efficient method of production and involves roles and tasks; calculability refers to pricing, predictability to standardisation through ordered routines (Clegg et al. 2011) and control to the standardisation of the product. This efficient process of standardisation means that McDonald's delivers change only by altering current processes and enforcing new procedures which are also reflected in a modulated company culture.
However, while coercive control can promote efficiency in production and some change, it can impede innovation as everything is planned and standardised 'top-down'. This can result in a disengagement from company processes with at times disastrous results as was seen in the Challenger Shuttle Tragedy (Dimitroff et al. 2005). Dimitroff argues that political pressures on NASA and NASA's subsequent pressure on staff ultimately contributed to 'groupthink', the situation where individuals agree with ideas for fear of being held responsible when actions go wrong (Dimitrioff, 2015). Hence, bureaucracies may have clearly structured systems which can support innovation and change, but as demonstrated through NASA, this systematic nature can impact on innovation and judgement.
In contrast, post-bureaucracies may use 'soft power' to encourage the development of ideas and expression of opinions from staff. According to Burns and Stalker (cited in Josserand et al. 2006), post-bureaucracies operate a 'softer internalised control'. This soft power creates an open and embracing organisation which allows staff to effectively contribute and adapt to changes and innovations. For example, StateCorp's successful change to a more corporate and commercial business was made possible with a transition from a strict bureaucratic structure to a flatter, more decentralised one. StateCorp encouraged greater communication between general managers and line managers during their meetings (Josserand et al. 2006) with line manager contributions, contributing to company strategy. Further, they were given the power to make more decisions. This new empowerment meant individuals were more greatly involved in the organisation's change process and because of this, changes and innovations were delivered more effectively.
However, soft power may also lead to staff resistance and bureaucracies may be more effective in managing this (Langton cited in Courpasson et al. 2012). In the case of the Health Maintenance Organisation, the management team was incapable of managing resistance. While managers 'warned' resisting members, insufficient action was taken to enforce the changes they wanted to make. This culminated in actions such as the nursing staff refusing to implement new recording procedures (Prasad et al. 2000). This resistance demonstrates that at times 'soft power' can be ineffective in enforcing innovation and also