Posts Tagged scientific management

MECHANISTIC AND ORGANIC SYSTEMS

Burns and Stalker propose two contrasting forms of management systems to suit different conditions. These are called as mechanistic organic forms. A mechanistic management system is considered appropriate to stable conditions while the organic form is suitable to changing conditions.

 

It is observed that organic systems are not hierarchical in the same way as mechanistic systems and they remain stratified based on expertise. Also, people’s commitment to the cause of the organization is supposed to be more in organic than mechanistic systems. In an organic form the hierarchic command gives way to consensus based commitment. The two forms of systems represent two ends of a continuum than being dichotomous. The relation of one form to the other is elastic and an organization may oscilate from one en (mechanistic) to the other end (organic) as the transition occurs in its conditions from relative stability to relative change.

We have considered different types of organization structures which have evolved over time. In response to complex, changing requirements. The continuum of structures range from centralization to decentralization, vertical to horizontal, mechanistic to organic and product to function. The predominant mode is decentralization with centralized control and a certain type of matrix in complex organizations. Each form has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Compromises are possible in the context of organization’s environment, technology, culture and aspects of human behavior.

 

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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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APPROACH TO UNDERSTAND THE ORGANIZATION

The word “organization” may be used to refer to the process of organizing, the structure that evolves out pf this process and the processes/activities that take place within it. 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. 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.

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Scientific Management – 2

We continue our discussion on Scientific Management today. For Taylor, scientific management fundamentally consists of certain broad principles, a certain philosophy, which can be applied in many ways, and a description of what any one man or men may believe to be the best mechanism for applying these general principles should in no way be confused with the principles themselves.

 

Taylor described the following four principles of scientific management:

1. Develop a science for each element of a man’s work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method.

 

2. Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself as best he could.

 

3. Management should heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure all the work being done in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed. 

4. There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen. The management should take over all work for which they are better fitted than the workmen, while on the past all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown on the workers.

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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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