Research Proposal: Public Administration Core Competency Final Exam

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Public Administration

Core Competency Final Exam

Many scholars have criticized the bureaucratic form of organization as originally outlined by Max Weber. Give an example of each of the key elements of bureaucracy as you see them reflected in contemporary organizations. Do you regard Weber as more as an advocate or opponent of bureaucracy or as a dispassionate describer of the social, political, and economic factors that made bureaucracy inevitable? How do Robert Merton, Anthony Downs, David Rosenbloom and Michael Lipsky qualify, extend, or criticize Weber's classic account?

Max Weber is well-known for his critical study of the bureaucratization of society, the rational ways in which formal social organizations apply the ideal type characteristics of a bureaucracy. It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularization of this term (Sashkin, 2002).

The last century has seen the perfection of the bureaucracy which is a form of organization that has been enormously successful and is the result of thousands of years of trial and error evolution. Max Weber outlined the key characteristics of a bureaucracy to include:

1. The specification of jobs with detailed rights, obligations, responsibilities, and scope of authority

2. A system of supervision and subordination

3. A unity of command

4. An extensive use of written documents

5. A training in job requirements and skills

6. An application of consistent and complete rules

7. An assignment of work and the hiring of personnel based on competence and experience (Bureaucracy, 2002).

These characterizes can be seen throughout contemporary organizations. Most organizations have job specifications that are laid down in detail so that everyone knows what their obligations are along with what responsibilities they have. This can usually be found in a job description.

Most jobs are set up in a manner in which there is a system of supervision and subordination. Unless you own your own company and you are the only employee, everyone has to answer to someone. This may be an individual person such as a manager or director, or is could be on a broader scale, such as a board of directors.

Weber's third characteristic of unity of command can be seen in organizations in the fact that there is the division of labor between managers and workers. Each level of employee within the organization is united at their own level, but then have a chain of command in which the must adhere to.

Most contemporary organizations subscribe to Weber's fourth characteristic of employing extensive use of written documents. It is usually very important to leave a paper trail pertaining to things that are seen as being important. This can be very useful for not only historical value but in futuristic value as well. It is just as important to know how things were done in the past at it is to provide documentation for those who will come after you. This often keeps people from having to reinvent the wheel every time a problem arises.

It is very important for organizations to adhere to Weber's fifth characteristic of providing job training. Many people come to a company or a job with a particular set of job skills that are a basis from which the draw to perform their jobs. Company provided training helps to ensure that every one is on the same page and that they know how to perform their job functions to the best of their abilities.

The sixth characteristic of application of consistent and complete rules is usually done by having a company manual. This provides for effective and consistent policies to be constructed and followed. If all standard operating procedures are documented and kept in on place then no one in the company has an excuse of not knowing what they supposed to be doing and in what manner they are supposed to be doing it.

Weber's seventh characteristic has to do with assigning work and hiring personnel based on competence and experience. It is very important to have the right people dong the right jobs for them. This ensures that there is quality and efficiency across the organization. If people are not qualified to do the job in which they have been placed it will only cause problems for everyone in the end. Time and money will be wasted on training and retraining that will surely need to take place.

Robert Merton believed that society could develop alternatives to current institutions by analyzing their dysfunctions. Merton thought that, if the predominance of rational rules, and their close control of all actions, favors the reliability and predictability of the bureaucrat's behavior, as Weber believed, it could equally lead to his lack of flexibility and his tendency to turn means into ends. Instead of serving as means to an end, these rules become ends in and of themselves (Bureaucracy, 2008).

Anthony Downs felt that control operates by providing structural coordination and uniformity. But that control in bureaucratic structures is flawed in several respects. He explored several regularities which he called laws. The first was the Law of Hierarchy: which was the coordination of large-scale activities without markets requiring a hierarchical authority structure. The second was the Law of Imperfect Control in which no one can fully control the behavior of a large organization. The third was the Law of Diminishing Control in which the larger any organization becomes, the weaker is the control over its actions exercised by those at the top. The fourth was the Law of Decreasing Coordination in which the larger any organization becomes, the poorer is the coordination among its actions. The fifth law is the Power Shift Law which is unrestrained conflict shifts power upward. The sixth law is the Law of Progress through Imperialism in which the desire to aggrandize breads innovation and the seventh law being the Law of Counter Control in which the greater the effort made by a sovereign or top-level official to control the behavior of subordinate officials, the greater the efforts made by those subordinates to evade or counteract such control (Fall and rise of control, 2007). This theory goes completely against Weber's classic account.

Rosenbloom argues that three interrelated approaches to Public Administration make it difficult for the government to perform effectively. Specifically, he cites the legal approach, which relates to the judicial system; the managerial approach, which relates to the executive branch; and the political approach, which relates to the legislative branch. Tendencies associated with these three approaches make it extremely difficult for government to identify a problem, decide on a solution, and implement that solution (Introduction, n.d.). Rosenbloom's argument can be seen as an extension of Weber's theory applied to the arena of the government.

Lipsky reverses the long-term belief of the policy process that has been held by so many before him. He conveys two main messages that street-level bureaucrats are policy makers and that they confront a dilemma between getting on at work and fulfilling the organization's goals. He believes that the ambiguity and uncertainty of goals as well as the unavailability of effective performance measures in street-level bureaucracies will encourage workers to exercise their own discretion. As a result, in order to deal with difficult and complicated jobs, front-line workers develop routines and simplifications, which then becomes the actual policy of the organization (Tawee, 2007). Lipsky's theory can be seen as an extension of Max Weber's philosophy. Lipsky is basically saying that the ambiguity and uncertainty within an organization eventually forces them to develop the rules that Max Weber laid down.

Upon looking at all of the different theories pertaining to bureaucracy I thin that Max Weber was merely a proponent of the social, political, and economic factors that eventually made bureaucracy unavoidable. All these theorists talk about the same elements. Some take them a step farther that Weber did, while others show how their theory eventually led to Weber's theory.

All organizations are influenced by social, political and economic factors at some point during their existence. It is how each organization deals with this factor that determines how successful they are. If an organization has no set rules and regulations on which to rely they will eventually adopt these by merely adopting the policies and practices that employees find that work. This type of organization will not have much structure and things will change within it quite often and usually very easily.

On the other hand an organization that has a lot of structure from the top down with a lot of policies and procedures documented and set forth with tend to run efficiently and effectively until some change needs to occur for the betterment of the organization. And it will be at this point that the change will be hard to bring about because of all the policies and procedures that are already in place and the multi-levels of management that exist. It will be hard to push change up the corporate ladder with any speed and more often than not it will be diverted somewhere along… [END OF PREVIEW]

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