The effect of Machine Bureaucracy on HR strategy and Its Practices

Part 3:

Machine Bureaucracy can be expressed as a large hierarchical, elaborated, rigid structure, which is highly centralized, rule bound and is operated in a simple, stable and predictable environmental contingency. This ensures that the tasks are simple, routine, and repetitive and of highly specialized nature, which are designed by the techno structure –the key part of the organization and require the employees at the operating level have minimal skills to perform the task assigned. Employees’ behavior is highly regulated in terms of job contents that are spelled out in every step of the process, which means that standardization of work process plays as the key coordinating mechanism that gives employees at the operating core very little discretion for judgment. The simplicity of work makes mutual adjustment ineffective and direct supervision of employees by first line managers is limited due to the elaborated size of the operating core and their role to play as contacts with technocrats, immediate superiors and subordinates.

Due to the structural configuration, decision is tightly controlled from top to down (Mintzberg, 1979, 1983), which Skrtic (1995:199 cited in Tomlinson, 1995:2) refers as

The theory behind the work in a machine bureaucracy rests with technocrats. They do the thinking, the workers simply follow the rules.

The upshot is that machine bureaucracies are highly non adaptive in changing context. Auto industry, steel factory, many public agencies are some common examples of machine bureaucracies. (Begin, 1991).

High formalization label provides an indication of how, where and by whom tasks will be accomplished (Fredrickson, 1986), which imply the formal aspects of human resources flow functions (Begin, 1991). For example, a training strategy, which is aimed at increasing employees skill base to improve productivity (Armstrong, 2004) in a mass production system where the job is highly routine and repititive, training is basically provided in-house on a regular basis for a short duration and this is done mainly off the job in order to not interrupt the production process (Versloot et al., 2001). Similarly, in machine bureaucracy, pursuing organizational goal through escalating employees’ input (Armstrong, ed. 1992) provides different perspectives from various authors (Hsieh and Hsieh, 2003). For example, standardization of work process is the source of dissatisfaction and inappropriate behavior because of highly formal, routine and repetitive tasks that cause employees losing interest in jobs due to a lack of creativity, variety, and autonomy (James and Jones, 1976 and Hartline et al., 2000 cited in Hsieh and Hsieh, 2003).

Conversely, it is argued that standardization of work process negates the illegitimate exercise of power by superiors providing set rules and processes to be followed by subordinates that give them more control on their tasks (Grand et al., 1994).



…. will be added in the last part of this article.

Posted by: Farid Ahmed



One thought on “The effect of Machine Bureaucracy on HR strategy and Its Practices

  1. Md. Saiful Islam September 27, 2016 / 5:14 am

    very informative article, awaiting next post.


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