Archive for classical school

Understanding Organizational Design

We are talking organization design in our blogs. Organizations are social units with specific purposes. The basic elements of organizations have remained the same over the years. Several disciplines provide the knowledge and the means to understand organizations. However, it is appropriate to look at organizations integrally in multi-disciplinary perspective. Three viewpoints have emerged, over the years in successive stages, each seeking to provide a window on the others. They are the classical approach, three streams stand out: bureaucracy, administrative theory and principles of scientific management. It is important to note that with the passage of time, the viewpoints have been changed or modified, but not replaced as such. Each major contribution brought new knowledge, awareness, tools and techniques to understand the organizations better.

Thus, today we are richer than ever before tin terms of our knowledge about approaches to understand organizations. We take example of portable car DVD players. Today there are so many companies who are manufacturing car DVD players like philips pet1002 , samsung DVD-L100 , JVC kd-avx33.  One person can have all knowledge of such products at one desk.  All the same, more knowledge meant reckoning with more complex variables to comprehend the complexities of human organizations. There is, as yet, no general, unified, universal theory as such. Organizations being diverse and complex in more senses than one, it is difficult, if not meaningless to be too general or too specific about them.

 

Organization structures based on classical bureaucratic principles are hierarchical. But modern organization theories attempted to modify them in the light of experience, changes in technology and knowledge about human behaviour. The centralized structures gave way to some sort of decentralization and thus transformed, partially at least, vertical (tall) organizations into horizontal (flat) ones, reflecting a shift in emphasis from command to consensus based self control. The relative conditions of instability and uncertainty transformed the classical mechanistic forms of management systems into organic ones.

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Product versus Functional Forms-4

The discussion in the preceding section and an overview of literature on function vs product choice, permits us to observe that both forms of organization design have their own set advantages and disadvantages. The functional structure facilitates the acquisition of specialized inputs. In permits pooling of resources and sharing them across products or projects.

 

The organization can hire, utilize and retain specialists. However the problem lies in coordinating the varying nature and amount of skills required at different times. The product or project organization, on the other hand, facilitates coordination among specialists; but may result in duplicating costs and reduction in the degree of specialization. For example, a blinds manufacturing company who manufacture roller shades and woven wood shades, need to adopt product forms not functional. It depend on the type of business company is doing. A term life insurance company can go with functional while a motels industry need to select product. Thus, if functional structure is adopted, projects may fall behind; if product/project organization is chosen technology and specialization may not develop optimally. Therefore, the need for a compromise between the two becomes imperative.

 

The possible compromises between product and functional bases include, in ascending order of structural complexity:

 

  1. The use of cross-functional teams to facilitate integration. These teams provide some opportunity for communication and conflict resolution and also a degree of common identification with product goals that characterizes the product organization. At the same time, they retain the differentiation provided by the functional organization.

We will discuss on two other structural complexity in next post.

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Product Versus Functional Forms-2

Lawrence and Lorsch highlighted important factors about specialization and coordination. According to them classical theorists saw specialization in terms of grouping of similar activities, skills or equipment. But this concept overlooks social and psychological consequences.

 

There is an important relationship between a units’s or individual’s assigned activities and the unit members’ patterns of thought and behavior. Functional specialists tend to develop patterns of behavior and thought that are in tune with the demands of their jobs and training. As such these specialists (e.g. industrial engineers and production supervisors) have different ideas and orientation about what is important in getting the job done. For example a cheap medical insurance quotes and term life insurance quotes both are different things. A health care insurance is related to medical insurance only while term life insurance is for life. This is referred to as ‘differentiation’ which means differences in thought patterns and behavior that develop among different specialists in relation to their respective tasks. Differentiation is necessary for functional specialists to perform their jobs effectively. 

 

Differentiation is closely related to achievement of coordination which may also be referred to as ‘integration’. Therefore, alternatively both differentiation and integration coexist. This is possible through effective communication channels. The appropriate mix of differentiation and integration in an organization is considered to be dependent on the nature of external factors such as markets, technology facing an organization as well as the goals of the organization. Since organizational pattern affects individual members, management and show concern to the kind of stress and cross functional conflicts that a certain pattern may produce. 

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VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL STRUCTURE

The classical bureaucratic model of organization though pervasive, has been considered inappropriate to the changing requirements of modern times. A bureaucratic organization was considered to be too inflexible and hierarchical to adapt to the changes occurring in organizations and technology.

 

Parkinson’s laws and Peter Principle highlight the negative aspects of bureaucratic organizations. Whatever be the criticism against bureaucracies, it is realized that to some extent they have become essential. Therefore, writers and organizations began to explore ways to modify the bureaucratic organization structures. In essence these new structures reflect modifications to the classical principles of delegation of authority and standard of control.

 

Delegation extends the scope of the principle to the point of an abiding organization-wide philosophy of management. A tall organization structure means a series of narrow spans of control, and a flat one incorporates wide spans and limited layers of control at horizontal levels. Both the structures have their advantages and disadvantages. They should be viewed on relevant concepts and not as ideal absolutes.

 

A tall structure calls for control and close supervision over the subordinates. But close supervision may not necessarily produce better control. Similarly in a flat organization with wide spans, it may not be possible to keep close control over subordinates but it provides for decentralization, individual initiative and self-control. Tall structures are less favorably viewed it is held that self-control is better than imposed control. The choice in this regard however rests ultimately on management assumptions about individuals and groups in organizations.

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NEOCLASSICAL VIEWPOINT-2

The test group achieved higher morale due to special attention given to the employees as individuals and also the social structure of the work group. The Hawthorne experiments further revealed that a worker’s feeling about himself and in work group matter most. The third set of experiments which began in 1931 attempted to understand how group norms affect group effort and output. It was noted that the informal organization of workers controlled the norms established by the groups in respect of each member’s output.

 

These and subsequent findings concerning human behaviour at work focused on worker as an individual and considered the importance of caring for his feelings and understanding the dynamics of the informal organization of workers-which affect the formal organization structure, its activities, processes and output. The neoclassical viewpoint thus gave birth to human relations movement and provided the thrust toward democratization of organizational power structures and participative management. The emerging changes in social, economic, political and technical environment of organizations also seems to have provided the rationale for such shift in emphasis.

 

The neoclassical viewpoint does not replace classical concepts. The need for order, rationality, structure, etc. have been modified to highlight the importance of relaxing the rigid and impersonal structures and consider each person as an individual with feeling and social influences that effect performance on the job.

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NEOCLASSICAL VIEWPOINT – 1

The neoclassical theory, also referred to as the human relations school of thought reflects a modification to and improvement over the classical theories. While classical theories focused more on structure and physical aspects of work (notwithstanding Taylor’s concern for mental revolution), the neoclassical theory recognizes the primacy of psychological and social aspects of the worker as an individual and his relations within and among groups and the organisation. Though neoclassical philosophy could be traced to ancient times, it gained currency only after the World War I, particularly in the wake of the “Hawthrone experiments” at Western Electric Company by Elton Mayo during 1924 to 1932.

 

The initial experiments carried out cover a period of three years sought to determine the effects of different levels of illumination on workers’ productivity in the test groups, productivity raised irrespective of variations in illumination at indifferent experiments. In the second set of experiments which began in 1927 a smaller group of six female telephone operators was put under close observation and controls. Frequent changes were made in working conditions such as hours of work, lunches, rest periods, etc. Still, over a period of time as the experiments continued with such changes, productivity continued to rise. It was concluded that the social or human relationships among the operators, researchers, and supervisors influenced productivity more decisively than changes in working conditions.

 

 

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Scientific Management-1

The third stream of classic school of thought is the scientific management. The principles of scientific management were first developed around 1900. Among the pioneering proponents of the principles of scientific management, particular mention should be made of Frederick Winston Taylor, an engineer by profession. Whereas bureaucracy and administrative theory focused on macro aspects of the structure and process of human organizations, scientific management concerned itself with micro aspects such as physical activities of work thorough time-and-motion study and examination of men-machine relationships.

 

Unlike in the other two, the scientific management laid emphasis on activities at shop floor or work unit level than management and based its inductive reasoning on detailed study and empirical evidence. In juxtaposition the principles of bureaucracy and administrative theory were formed by synthesizing experience and observation with abstract reasoning.

 

Taylor’s principles of scientific management could be considered as an improvement over the contributions in the other two streams of thought in as much as he tried to use the engineer’s discipline to reduce personal factors, randomness and rule of thumb decision-making. Though Taylor too had his share of critics and criticism, his contribution to modern management and use of scientific methodology for decision-making and management practices are profound. 

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