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What is a Bureaucracy?

Bureaucracy is a common term used in many organizations. It’s a system of management deployed mostly in large organizations. But that doesn’t mean small-sized organizations cannot or do not operate a bureaucratic system. Whenever there is a pyramidal command structure, then that is clear evidence that the said firm is running a bureaucratic system.


Definition of Bureaucracy

A bureaucracy implies a firm or company with a complex management structure. In other words, it follows a multi-layered process and systems with the primary aim of doing things the right way and achieving the expected result. Therefore, the methods and systems might appear to be a bit complex, but the primary objective of designing them is to ensure uniformity in all business operations within the said organization.

Bureaucracy is also a system commonly found in larger or more complex organizations such as government agencies or many multi-national organizations. And the steps of authority established in bureaucratic systems are in place to ensure there is no clash between subordinates and their superiors, and among the juniors or top-level executives themselves.

However, a typical example of bureaucracy is the safety procedures that leading oil firms have adopted. They usually establish specific guidelines that compel employees to conduct the necessary safety checks before working at the oil rig. And even if a superior is not present to enforce the principles, the employees already know the right thing to do.

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The pyramidal command structure bureaucratic organizations follow can be helpful on many occasions. It makes the firm to be more organized and observe a high level of formality in the manner in which it operates.

Another thing about a bureaucratic organization is that decisions are never made without following due process. Every department has a specific organizational chart, and so every employee or executive knows his or her place within the said department. The chart helps them to understand the level of authority they have and to what extent they can exercise it, too. In short, the bureaucracy is a system that is expected to not only be highly effective. It also has to be very orderly and transparent in all aspects.

What Bureaucrats Do

Bureaucrats perform a vast amount of tasks and help to keep the wheels of the organization spinning. They perform diverse functions, not only as desk clerks, particularly government bureaucrats. They teach and can also monitor different activities in government such as how candidates raise finances and other critical operations.

Bureaucrats whether in government or private organizations implement policies. They enforce the rules, policies or decisions made by the government. There is also a level of discrepancy regarding how bureaucrats to act. Some are known to implement policies by drafting separate rules while others only make plans available to the people without any description or alteration.

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Bureaucratic Functions

Bureaucrats have numerous functions that need to be understood for effective management. Below are some of those functions as experienced in most government agencies including private establishment.

  • Administrative Duties

The bureaucrat helps to perform the administrative so that the mission of the organization can be well executed as planned. The bureaucracy sits behind a desk to draft the paperwork required for the purpose. Therefore, one of the bureaucratic functions is administrative which is very critical for the successful implementation of whatever policy an organization wants the employees or subordinates to know about or adopt.

  • Process Tax Returns

In government agencies that handle any issue of taxes, the bureaucrats can help to process tax returns and also carry out audit returns.

  • Policy Implementation

Another bureaucratic function is to implement policies. Bureaucrats do not make policies. It is not their place to make one but rather, see to it that everyone affected by the system abides by it. The bureaucrat can, in most cases draft policy document or legislative proposal which must pass through a higher authority in a government establishment to either the president or congress.

Again, another bureaucratic function is to interpret policies so that people affected by them can have a better understanding.

Bureaucratic Models

The bureaucratic model provides the business owner with insights considered to be valuable and ideas of common pitfalls. But then, whenever the term “bureaucratic model” is mentioned, the focus is always on government.

The simplest way to understand what the bureaucratic model entails is to go through various government agencies. And the army is an excellent example of a government agency to use. The model shows how decisions are being made, or reporting is passed down from top executives to the subordinates in an orderly manner.

  • The Differentiation
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Differentiation is not a new bureaucratic model. It has been in existence and used in several organizations that existed many centuries ago. When an organization whether public, private or nonprofit has various departments, then bureaucracy is in place. And each of the departments has a critical role to play in the survival of the company. For instance, most agencies or organizations may have different departments like sales, marketing, logistics, warehouses, and even customer service.

  • Specialization

One unique thing about bureaucracy is the recognition of specialists in the various departments. In short, people who are considered specialists or experts in their respective fields are given top management positions. They may also receive higher packages than their subordinates. A good example is the accounting department in many organizations. In this department, you will find specialists handling different tasks within the department which could range from cash handling, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and other functions.

  • Vertical Reporting System

Bureaucratic models also involve a vertical reporting system. And it is a system whereby those are the helm of affairs in an organization whether public or private possesses the highest authority or power. And those regarded as the subordinates have the least power.

  • Decision-Making

In the bureaucratic model, decisions are also made via the vertical reporting system. In this case, employees or workers at the bottom of the chart of authority cannot just pass information to the top management. It has to come through the middle-level managers before getting to the senior executives. And the same thing happens whenever top managers want to make any decision. It passes through the same process.

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.