The effect of Professional Bureaucracy & Adhocracy on HR strategy and Its Practices

Part 4:

Professional Bureaucracy

Professional Bureaucracy is defined as a bureaucratic structure with little formalization, which entails a large operating core that is highly autonomous and controlled by trained expertise due to the complex nature of tasks. This indicates that the environmental contingency in which professional bureaucracy works is stable but complex in nature where standardization of skill performs as the prime coordinating mechanism, where the works necessitate great knowledge and skill to create output form input that clearly depict the authority originates from experts’ expertise and lies in their hands to control their works. Abernethy and Stoelwinder (1990) stated that as the autonomous and dominant characteristics of operating core diminish the influence of technostructure, top and middle line over it and the result is a flat organizational configuration.

Due to the relative autonomy and control, professionals work closely with their customers and their activities have heavily influenced many decisions that concern the organization (Denis et al., 1991). Begin (1991) states that Universities, Consulting firms, Hospital functions, Law firms, Architectural firms etc. are some examples of professional bureaucracies where human resources flow is very wide and formal. For example, he indicates that a training strategy to improve job skill under such structure is quiet simple and straightforward because the need for training is minimal and on the job as Byford (1994) points out that on the first instance, the professionals have gained required knowledge and skills from a university or professional institutions through extensive training to perform their tasks and subsequently, an experienced professional supervise the trainee professionals to perfectly apply their knowledge in the workplace. Versloot et al. (2001), on the other hand, suggest that professionals very much tend to take external training courses to add value to their skills.

As the jobs are of highly specialized nature, job rotation of such employees in different departments is hardly found.

As a result, for instance, in case of recruiting an academic in a university, hiring and selection is done informally at respective departments or school levels. Similar procedure is adopted in providing reward to academics as well. For example, academics’ experience, standings, performances, training etc. determine their salaries and other intrinsic benefits (Begin, 1991).


Adhocracy is illustrated as a flexible, unordered organizational structure which has emerged to meet the new, unique, creative, complicated and problem-solving needs of the organizations operating in a rapid changing and complex environment, which means that the tasks are unusual and highly complex, performed by expertise from different work specialization through the use of project based or organic teams (Mintzberg, 1979, 1983). According to him, the multifaceted nature of tasks specify that the degree of formalization is minimal, which means that authority is concentrated to the experts who meet on a regular basis to innovate something new as the environmental contingency is not only dynamic but also complex, which demands coordination among them to be established through informal communication, that is, through mutual adjustment as Lindblom (1965) asserts that coordination through mutual adjustment takes place without the need to coordinate them by someone else.

Adhocracy is subdivided into two parts- administrative and operating where projects are self-maintained in administrative adhocracy whereas operating adhocracy is client based and to provide support to the experts, support staff shows up as the most important (Mintzberg, 1981). Begin (1991) points out that in order to be responsive to the complex and rapidly changing environment, human resources functions should be flexible enough. For example, the recruitment strategy of such organization should be to attract and hire people who are not only experts in their respective fields but also creative and flexible as well to work in variety of projects. For this, highly selective selection procedure is maintained. According to Giancola (2008), for hiring and retaining such people, attractive reward strategies are formulated in terms of higher pay, attractive benefit packages that recognize their achievement and motivate them to perform better. Lund (2003) states that adhocracy creates higher job satisfaction among employees due to the provision of exercising creative practices and flexibility. Conversely, a survey conducted by Allen and Katz (1995 cited in Bredin 2008) where it is found out that adhocracy is not motivating in terms of conventional reward practices. In case of training and development, the nature of the tasks stipulates the type of training needed as they are project based and on spot training programs are developed to meet the learning need (Versloot et al., 2001) whereas Begin (1991)indicates that the dynamic environment requires employees to update and upgrade their knowledge on a regular basis, which means training focus should be incessant.

Wood (2005) says that the creative, innovative, complex and rapidly changing nature of such structure are particularly observed in research and development firms.

Jackson and Schuler (1995) state that the implications of HRM on organizational structures that extend beyond national borders are well established. Bartlett and Ghoshal (1998) name these structures as ‘Multinational Form’, ‘Global Form’ and ‘Transnational Form’. Grossman and Schoenfeldt (2001) accentuate HRM as the critical success factor for organization’s international success. Fisher, Schoenfeldt, & Shaw (1999:806 cited in Grossman and Schoenfeldt 2001: 55-56) define International HRM as

The process of procuring, allocating, and effectively utilizing human resources in a Multinational Corporation

with the objective of balancing the needs of autonomy, coordination, and control for the purpose of global competitiveness, flexibility, and learning.



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

Posted by: Farid Ahmed

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