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Control Systems in Bureaucratic Organizations


Bureaucracy is a system of administration based upon the hierarchy of authority that is designed to perform tasks through specific formal procedures or a routine manner. In this case, efficiency is enhanced as tasks are organized according to their complexity as well as in a formal line of control that ensures those in a certain level report directly to the level immediately above them.

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Bureaucracy may sometimes be dysfunctional due to how it is expected to operate in an organization especially given that it emphasizes more on the decision-making process than on control. This often creates unnecessary and unhealthy forms of bureaucracy. Also, changes implemented from the top in the chain of hierarchy to the bottom may take longer due to rigidity consultations, which must be made by bottom-line employees. This may lead to dissatisfaction of employees and customers who are not in a position to make decisions and innovations without consulting the management (Garston, 1993, p. 5).

Power principle may also lead to those in authority using power to fulfill personal interests other than the fulfillment of the organization’s core objectives. Also, management may focus on achieving better control through power other than a professional advantage in their organizations. However, bureaucratic dysfunction is managed by the adoption of various principles that help in designing organization structure as discussed below.

A formal hierarchical structure

In this formation of an organization, there is a tall span of control where lines of communication are vertically aligned such that each level must report to the level just above it. In this case, decision-making is more or less centralized such that those belonging to a lower level are not allowed to participate in decisions of a higher level.

Management by rules

In a bureaucratic organization, rules are set by top-level managers and applied consistently throughout all other levels such that all subordinates (or employees) are supposed to abide by such rules without question or compromise.

Organization by functional specialty

Bureaucracy allows specialization where work to be split into specific jobs or job groups, which are handled by specific individuals based on their skills or competence. Each unit executes a certain type of work that cannot be executed by other units, thus enabling control of processes and performance review in specific units.

Process Control

Control is an important aspect mainly because goals can only be met if processes are controlled and guided towards achieving desired objectives. Therefore, the management of any organization must develop a control system tailored to its organization’s goals and resources (Daft, 2009, p. 6).

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Control is the process of monitoring activities in an organization to achieve desired results. Generally, there are two approaches in controlling individual performance, one being controlling the processes in which people do their jobs and the other being controlling the outcomes. Some principles help in designing control systems in an organization depending on the structure of the organization.

Integration into established processes

In this case, controls and processes seem to work in harmony without having to interfere with the ease of carrying out the organization’s operations. Also, controls of the different organizations may not necessarily fit into structures of other organizations thus the need for integration of tailor-made controls. Moreover, the time and cost of the control systems must be favorable concerning the organization.

Acceptance by employees

All employees should be allowed to participate in the design of controls to make such control exclusively acceptable; however, controls imparted on employees without their involvement may not be accepted due to lack of understanding and motivation.

Economic feasibility

Effective control systems must ensure that the benefits realized from the implementation of controls are more than the cost that will be incurred in the process. Generally, the control system is mainly aimed at enhancing productivity, efficiency, and accuracy; therefore, the secret to this is to match the characteristics of the organization to the application such that, when this match is made, one accomplishes reliable and accurate control.


Daft, R. L. (2006). Organization theory and design. OH: Cengage learning. Web.

Garston, N. (1993). Bureaucracy: three paradigms. MA: Springer. Griffin, R. and Moorhead, G. (2009). Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations. OH: Cengage Learning.

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