Organizational Design: Machine & Professional Bureaucracy

Organizational design is a formal and guided process meant for integrating people, information and technology of an organization. Or it can be defined as the manner in which an organization achieves the correct mixture of integration and differentiation of the operations of the organization (Mintzberg, 1992). It involves subdividing the functional units of an organization or departmental units of an organization whose focus is on different aspects of the organization. Further, it concerns itself to linking of differentiated units to bring about harmony /unity of efforts towards achieving the organization’s goals. Organizational design is vital for any organization and is a must have for organization management and success.

During the times of uncertainty, greater effectiveness of an organization is achieved through differentiation and integration of functional units and vice versa. Collective efforts of the members of an organization are achieved through organizational design (Mintzberg,1992). In general, organizational design combines people, technology and information and focuses them towards the organization’s goal, purpose, vision and the strategy of an organization. it enhances formation of structures that enhance communication and information flow among people, enhances formation of systems that are meant for encouraging individual responsibility and making of decisions, and lastly promotes technology which is used to enhance human capabilities to finish specific works. The ultimate goal of organizational design is to have an integrated system of human capital and resources, focused toward a particular direction of the organization (Mintzberg, 1992).

This article is going to elucidate the detailed, specific recommendations for organizational design for machine bureaucracy from professional bureaucracy. it will also provide specific recommendations for divisional form of structure implementation as a form of more balanced form of structure when managed correctly. Lastly, it will detail the adhocracy as the most flexible and organic form of five structures and provider recommendation for action and provide rationale how it should be implemented in an organization.

Machine bureaucracy

Organizations, in which, the operation is routine, repetitive, and the work is highly standardized, behaves like a machine or bring about machine bureaucracy in our society. Machine bureaucracy was first described by Max Weber as a structure with standardized responsibilities, qualifications, communication channels, work rules and clearly defined hierarchy of authority. Machine bureaucracy can be described as highly specialized, routine operating tasks, with much formalized procedures in the operating centre. It has a proliferation of rules, regulations, and formalized communication throughout the organization. The structure has large sized units at the operating level, relies on the functional basis of the grouping tasks, relatively centralized power for decision making and elaborated administrative structure with sharp distinction between the line and staff (Mintzberg, 1992).

Machine bureaucracy puts emphasis on standardization which extends beyond the operating core. Precisely, rules and regulations permeate the entire machine beauracracy structure. Standardization favors formal communication at all levels and decision making tends to follow formal chain of authority. All over the machine bureaucracy there is a sharp division of labor. There is a very distinct division between line and staff as well as clear job specialization in the operating centre. The operating core is highly differentiated from the administrative structure.

In the machine bureaucracy, considerable power rests on the mangers of the strategic apex. Formal power clearly rests at the top and hierarchy and chain authority are paramount concepts. Middle level managers are very weak while the workers at the operation core have no power. The only individuals authorized to share informal power with the top management are techno-structure analyst due to their position and role in standardizing every ones work. This organizational structure is centralized in the vertical dimension and decentralized in horizontal dimension only to a limited extent (Mintzberg, 1992). Machine bureaucracy is found in environments that are simple and stable. With machine bureaucracy, the works of complex environments cannot be rationalized into simple tasks. The work of dynamic environment is unpredictable, cannot be made repetitive and so standardized.

Typically, machine bureaucracy is majorly found in manufacture organization which is large enough to have amount of work needed for repetition and standardization (Mintzberg, 1992). Machine bureaucracy is characterized by regulation of technical systems that routinilize the work and enables it to be formalized. Those systems are moderate and not sophisticated and complicated. Organizations with mass production are best known to have machine bureaucracies. The horizontal operating chains of the organization with machine bureaucracy are segmented into links, each forming functional department that gives reports to vertical chain authority.

Machine bureaucracy is designed for one purpose only since it is an inflexible configuration. This type of organizational design is efficient in its limited domain and cannot adapt to any other system. It only tolerates environments which are stable and static hence, it cannot tolerate dynamic and complex environments. It is excellent I simple and static environments (Mintzberg, 1992). Machine bureaucracy and professional bureaucracy differ markedly from each other in this sense, machine bureaucracy, generates its own standards. For instance, it generates its own techno-structure designing the work standards for its operators and its lime mangers punting them into operation. On the other hand, professional bureaucracy standards originate largely from the self governing associations which are outside its own structure. Its operators combine with their colleagues from other professional bureaucracies.

Machine bureaucracy emphasizes the authority of the hierarchical nature /structure which can be called reliance on the power of office while professional bureaucracy emphasizes the authority of a profession or the power of expertise. (Mintzberg, 1992).

Professional bureaucracy

Unlike machine bureaucracy professional bureaucracy processes are complex and complicated in that standardization by the analyst becomes very difficult. It provides freedom of consulting peers and to respond to managerial orders. Professional bureaucracy structure is both functional and market-based this is because eit categorizes client’s interns of their functional specialists. In contrast to machine bureaucracy, professional bureaucracy is a highly decentralized structure both horizontally and vertically. A lot of power over the operating work lies at the base of the structure, with operating core professional. Professional power is derived from the work professions do which is complex to be supervised by other mangers or standardized by analysts. As well the services the professionals offer are on high demand to be standardized (Mintzberg, 1992).

Professional bureaucracy allows the professionals to control their work, but also seek collective control of administrative decisions that affect them. This is centrally to machine bureaucracy structure where the workers have no control of their work. They are managed and power is concentrated on the top management only. in professional bureaucracy, there are parallel administrative hierarchies, such as one democratic and bottom up for professional and another one machine bureaucratic and top-down for support staff. Under professional hierarchy power resides with the expertise. Generally, a good volume of power resides at the bottom of the hierarchy. Another outstanding contrast between professional bureaucracies with machine bureaucracy is workers competence. Professional bureaucracy finds it hard to work with professionals who are incompetent or unconscientiously. This is not the case with machine bureaucracy because the work is routinized and thus simple for every one competent and incompetent with or without professional knowledge (Mintzberg, 1992).



Mintzberg, H., (1992). Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations 1st Ed. Prentice Hall.