Relating the Position Design Parameters in Organization

It has been evident throughout our discussion that specialization, formal- ization, and training and indoctrination are not completely independent design parameters. In essence, we have been describing two fundamen- tally different kinds of positions. One we have called unskilled: because the work is highly rationalized, it involves extensive specialization in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions, and it is often coordinated and con- trolled by the direct formalization of behavior. The other we have called professional: because the work is complex, it cannot easily be specialized in the vertical dimension or formalized by the organization’s technostructure. It is, however, horizontally specialized—professionals are experts in well- defined fields—and the coordination is often achieved by the standardiza- rion of skills in extensive training programs, generally given outside the organization. (There are, of course, other kinds of work that are coordi- nated neither by formalization nor by training.)

This suggests that formalization and training are basically sub- stitutes. Depending on the work in question, the organization can either control it directly through its own procedures and rules, or else achieve indirect control by hiring duly trained professionals. That is not to say that the one cannot supplement the other; hospitals rely on professional train- ing to coordinate much of their operating work, yet they also have rules. But in general, most positions seem to stress one coordinating mechanism or the other, not both equally.

In the case of formalization, it is quite clear where the control of the work lies—with the designers of the work standards, notably the organiza- tion’s analysts. But the issue is less clear in the case of training. Control ostensibly rests with the professional. But although they have a good deal of discretion and appear to be autonomous, professionals are in fact prod- ucts of their development, much like the actor who has learned his lines well. So some control lies too with those outside agencies that do the training and set the professional standards—universities and professional associations. Thus, the professional organization surrenders a good deal of control over its choice of workers as well as their methods of work to the outside institutions that train and certify them and thereafter set stan- dards that guide them in the conduct of their work. With control passes allegiance; professionals tend to identify more with their profession than with the organization wherein they happen to practice it.

It may be recalled that Weber included training in his definition of bureaucracy: “Office management . . . usually presupposes thorough and expert training,” and “only persons who have the generally regulated qualifications to serve are employed.” But we have just seen that training and formalization—the latter central to the Weber definition—are to some extent mutually exclusive. Might this explain the finding that bureaucracy may be centralized or decentralized? Perhaps in one kind of organization, because the operating work is unskilled, day-to-day control of it passes to the technostructure and the structure becomes centralized; in the other, because the work is professional, control of it remains with the operators themselves, and beyond them, with their associations.

This is not the place to answer that question. Suffice it at this point to note that by our definitions, professionalism and bureaucracy can coexist in the same structure. Remember that we defined bureaucracy as the ex- tent to which organizational “behavior is predetermined or predictable, in effect standardized.” We did not specify how it is standardized.

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

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