Designing individual Positions: Training and Indoctrination in Organization

The third aspect of position design entails the specifications of the require- ments for holding a position in the first place. In particular, the organiza- tion can specify what knowledge and skills jobholders must have and what norms they must exhibit. It can then establish recruiting and selection procedures to screen applicants in terms of those position requirements; alternatively, it can establish its own programs to develop them in the candidates it hires. In either case, the intention is the same—to ensure that the jobholder develops the necessary behaviors before beginning work. Furthermore, the organization may later reinforce these behaviors with a host of personnel devices—job rotation, attendance at conferences, organi- zational development programs, arid so on. Training refers to the process by which job-related skills and knowledge are taught, whereas indoc- trination is the process by which organizational norms are acquired. Both amount to the “internalization” of accepted (that is, standardized) patterns of behavior in the workers.

1. Training

When a body of knowledge and a set of work skills are highly rationalized, the organization factors them into simple, easily learned jobs—that is, unskilled ones—and then relies on the formalization of behavior to achieve coordination. An automobile is a complex machine, its assembly an in- volved procedure. But over the years, that procedure has been reduced to thousands of simple tasks, so that today, workers with minimal skills and knowledge can assemble automobiles. Training is, therefore, an insignifi- cant design parameter in the automobile assembly plant—it takes place in the first few hours on many jobs.

Where, however, a job entails a body of knowledge and a set of skills that are both complex and nonrationalized, the worker must spend a great deal of time learning them. For some jobs, of course, these requirements are not recorded as formal knowledge, and so they must be learned on the job: the worker assumes the role of “apprentice” under a “master,” who earlier learned the job in the same way. Such work is generally referred to as craft. But where a body of knowledge has been recorded and the re-quired skills have—in part at least—been specified, the individual can be trained before beginning work. This kind of work—complex and nonra- tionalized, yet in part recorded and specified—is referred to as professional. Thus, training is a key design parameter in all work we call professional.

The “specification” of knowledge and skill is, of course, synonomous with the “standardization” of it. Thus, training is the design parameter for the exercise of the coordinating mechanism that we have called the stan- dardization of skills. Lest anyone doubt the relation between professional- ism and standardization, we need only quote the words of a reputed pro- fessional about his most complex of professions. Writing about cardiovascular surgery, Frank Spencer discusses his “surgical cookbooks” as follows:

The jargon term “cookbook” evolved from my loyal office staff, as this essen- tially describes “How I do this operation,” somewhat analogous to “How I bake a cake.” . . .

The components of a complex operation, such as repair of tetralogy of Fallot, may be divided into 10 to 15 sequential steps, with two to five essential features in each step. If each feature is symbolized by a single word, essential steps of an operation can be readily reduced to a series of chains of symbols, varying from six to ten chains containing 30 to 40 symbols. These are commit- ted to memory, with review frequently enough so the essential 30 to 40 symbols representing key features of an operation can be reviewed mentally in 60 to 120 seconds at some time during the day preceding the operation. (1976:1182)

Professionals are trained over long periods of time, before they ever assume their positions. Generally, this training takes place outside the organization, often in a university. (There are, of course, exceptions. For example, police forces generally train their own personnel.) In effect, the training itself usually requires a particular and extensive expertise, beyond the capacity of the organization to provide. So the responsibility for it falls away from the technostructure, to some kind of professional association, which may use the university as its training ground. In the process, of course, the organization surrenders some control not only over the selec- tion of its workers but also over the methods they use in their work.

Once the trainees have demonstrated the required behavior—that is, have internalized the standard skills and associated body of knowledge— they are duly certified by the professional association as appropriate for the job, and are subsequently hired by the organization to perform it.

Of course, the professional training program can seldom impart all the necessary skills and knowledge; some must always remain beyond specification and standardization. So professional training must generally be followed by some kind of on-the-job apprenticeship before the person is considered fully trained. For example, as Spencer notes, after perhaps four years of postgraduate university training, the medical doctor must spend five years or more in on-the-job training, first as an intern and then as a resident, before being allowed to practice as a surgeon.

2. Indoctrination

Socialization “refers to the process by which a new member learns the value system, the norms, and the required behavior patterns of the society, organization, or group which he is entering” (Schein, 1968: 3). A good deal of socialization takes place informally in the organization; indeed, some of it is carried out by the informal group in contradiction to the system of formal authority. Indoctrination is the label used for the design parameter by which the organization formally socializes its members for its own benefit.

Organizations allow some indoctrination to take place outside their own boundaries, as part of professional training. Law students, for exam- ple, learn more at the university than just legal precedent; they are ex- pressly given clues about how a lawyer should behave. But much socializa- tion is related to the “culture” of the specific organization, and so indoctrination is largely a responsibility of the organization itself.

Again, a good deal of this “in-house” indoctrination activity takes place before the person starts the job, to ensure that he or she is sufficiently socialized to exhibit the desired behavior. Apprenticeship programs gener- ally contain a good dose of indoctrination along with the training. Some organizations design programs solely for the purposes of indoctrination. Freshly minted MBAs, for example, are often put through a “training” read “indoctrination”) program on first joining a large organization. They rotate through various departments for periods too brief for them to learn the work but not to sense the culture.

Often such indoctrination is supplemented by later programs de- signed to reinforce the employees’ allegiance to the organization. For ex- ample, they are brought together for social events or inspiring speeches by the top managers, or they are rotated in their jobs so that they develop their allegiances to the whole organization rather than to any one of its parts.

In-house indoctrination programs are particularly important where jobs are sensitive or remote—managers of the foreign subsidiary, agents of the CIA, ambassadors of the nation, mounties of the R.C.M.P. In these cases, the need for coordination is paramount, particularly for the as- surance that individuals working autonomously will act in the best in- terests of the organization. The nature and location of the work preclude the formalization of behavior and the use of direct supervision. So the organization must rely on training, and especially on indoctrination. The Catholic Church and the Communist Party are examples of organizations that rely heavily on indoctrination as a design parameter. Antony Jay, in his book Management and Machiavelli, provides us with an excellent illustra- tion of one branch of the former’s use of indoctrination:

St. Augustine once gave as the only rule for Christian conduct, “Love God and do what you like.” The implication is, of course, that if you truly love God, then you will only ever want to do things which are acceptable to Him. Equally, Jesuit priests are not constantly being rung up, or sent memos, by the head office of the Society. The long, intensive training over many years in Rome is a guarantee that wherever they go afterwards, and however long it may be before they even see another Jesuit, they will be able to do their work in accordance with the standards of the Society. (1970:70)

3. Training and indoctrination by part of the organization

No matter what the part of the organization, training is most important where jobs are complex, involving difficult, yet specified skills and sophis- ticated recorded bodies of knowledge—jobs essentially professional in na- ture. And indoctrination is most important where jobs are sensitive or remote, and where the culture and ideology of the organization demand a strong loyalty to it.

In some organizations—known as professional—a great deal of the work of the operating core involves complex skills and sophisticated knowledge. Examples are hospitals, law firms, social-work agencies, and school systems. In each case, the organization relies extensively on training as a design parameter. Some organizations—sometimes the same profes- sional ones—also make extensive use of indoctrination in the operating core because their operators do sensitive jobs or work in remote places. The R.C.M.P. and the Jesuits were both cited above as examples.

Training and indoctrination are also used extensively in many of the staff units. Much of the technocratic work of the organization—for exam- ple, operations research and industrial engineering—is professional in na- ture. That is, it involves complex skills and knowledge that can be learned formally. So training is an important parameter in the design of their posi- tions. Where the analysts have sensitive control responsibilities—for exam- ple, in the case of accountants who are sent out to divisions to keep watch over expenditures—indoctrination may be important as well. To ensure that their allegiances remain with the head office, job rotation from factory to factory is often used. Similarly, many of the jobs in the support staff— legal council, researcher, industrial relations specialist—are professional in nature, requiring extensive training.

In the managerial ranks—the middle line and the strategic apex—the work is certainly complex, but it is not well understood, and so formal training is not paramount. True, there are skills and knowledge to be learned, and management schools to teach them, but so much of what managers do remains beyond recorded knowledge that management can hardly be called a profession. This is exemplified by the fact that the lead- ers of a great many of society’s most important institutions—especially government—have had no management training whatsoever. Their work is craft; they learn it by observation and by working with masters. Thus,’ training is not yet considered a major design parameter at the strategic apex or in the middle line, although organizations do try to use brief “executive development” programs where specific managerial skills or knowledge can be taught.

Indoctrination plays perhaps a more important role in the managerial ranks, since the managers are, after all, the guardians of the organization’s ideology. Thus, the newly hired MBA is put through the indoctrination program, and many large organizations rotate their managers frequently. Again, where managerial jobs are also sensitive or remote—ambassador, manager of a foreign subsidiary—these indoctrination programs take on special importance.

Source: Mintzberg Henry (1992), Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations, Pearson; 1st edition.

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