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Bureaucracy – Elements of Social Interaction (PSY,SOC)

by Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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    00:00 Let’s look at another type of organization.

    00:04 And one of the factors that shapes organization is Bureaucracy.

    00:08 Bureaucracy is a term, I think, you’ve heard of before. We use it in the statements like “Oh, if there's so much bureaucracy involve we’re trying to get this form through.

    00:18 It’s so frustrating.” And what you’re eluding to there is that there's a lot of things in the way, there's a lot process, lots of structures that’s required in order for you to complete your task.

    00:27 There's some sort of truth to that alignment to what we’re going to talk about here.

    00:32 It was brought forth by a sociologist named by Max Weber.

    00:35 He has comes up a lot of I think on our lectures. And he used this to describe the rule, the structure and the ranking of this organization and groups.

    00:44 It tend to be complex, have a hierarchal structure, increased efficiency and they’re replaceable.

    00:49 A lot like what we just said for organizations.

    00:53 Some of the characteristics of an Ideal Bureaucracy.

    00:56 This is one things have been established well and they’re working well.

    00:59 First, Division of Labor.

    01:01 People are trained to do very specific task. Just like, I said, in that assembly line.

    01:05 And there's a really interesting article that I had read recently, looking at… In China, they were looking at some of the -- I don’t want to say switch shops.

    01:13 But large organizations and facility where they assembled IPhones and IPads.

    01:19 And this has been in the news before, where Apples been accused of creating this sort of switch shops, and having young children not getting paid for a wages to do the process, and to have the process of creating this IPads.

    01:34 They were interviewing this young girl afterwards saying, “Do you… who do you work for?” Just like “Oh it’s just some company and this large factory.” And they are like, “What do you do?” and she says, "Well, I have a task”.

    01:50 And they’re like, “What’s your task?” And her task is like, “I take this wire, I connect it to this plug, and I move it on to the next person beside me.

    01:58 And I do that over and over. I do that 14 hours a day. And I've been doing that for 3 years”.

    02:02 And they said, “Oh my God that’s very difficult." It’s just, “Yeah, it’s difficult.

    02:07 And it’s not the greatest. But it’s good pay. And they’re pretty fair to me.” thats what she said.

    02:12 And they said, “Well do you know what you’re making?” And she said, “No”.

    02:16 So she said, “You don’t know what product this is for?” She said, “No.” And then, he out of the package brought an IPad and turned it on and showed her.

    02:26 And she was completely amazed. She had no idea that she was actually building an IPad.

    02:31 She had no idea that that’s what she was doing. And it kind of highlights a couple of points.

    02:35 One, a clear Division of Labor.

    02:37 She was trained and skilled of doing absolutely one thing.

    02:41 That improves efficiency, it helps builds expertise. She's probably amazing at doing that at one moves and been doing it really really fast.

    02:48 I’m sure you’ve seen videos of people who do like sorting food or do different things where kind of an assembly line. And they’re just going crazy fast.

    02:55 And you’re like, “How they so good at that?” We’ll, if that’s all you do every day for 14 hours a day; you’re going to get pretty good.

    03:01 The negatives or the cons there are feelings of alienation.

    03:06 And you don’t see the task all the way through. So this young girl, She probably didn’t really feel super enthused and plug in to what the end goal was.

    03:15 She didn’t even know what it was.

    03:16 She didn’t see the task all the way through. So she doesn’t really feel invested.

    03:19 And you’re kind of losing the big picture. That person doesn’t feel part of a movement.

    03:27 There's like “All I’m doing is this all day long”.

    03:30 There's Hierarchy of Organization.

    03:33 So each position is under rule with somebody who has supervision.

    03:38 There's again a clear order within this organization which is good because if there's a clear understanding of what you’re supposed to do and who’s in-charge.

    03:48 Sometimes if you’re trying to achieve a task and you have too many people trying to give their opinion, it can get very convoluted and get messy.

    03:56 And there's that expression that “There's too many cooks in the kitchen”.

    03:58 You need your main head chef, you need your sous chef.

    04:02 And you need your… everybody knows the rule, the guy that just cuts the carrots and the guy that’s doing all the mixing.

    04:07 So you can say, “Cut me more carrots. Grill the meat.” and there's a clear order.

    04:11 You know your job, you know what you’re doing, and there's a hierarchy.

    04:14 Now, the negatives with that is sometimes you the individual whose job is just to cut carrots or to plug on this cable for an IPad.

    04:21 You really have no voice in the decision that’s going to be made. And you have no ownership.

    04:25 And so we say there's a deflection of responsibility.

    04:28 If you’re in that kitchen and you’re job is to cut the carrots And the end goal, was to make this amazing stir fry. And the stir fry ends up being disgusting.

    04:38 You can't even eat it it’s terrible.

    04:40 And somebody says, “This is gross. Were you part of this?” You could say, “Yeah, I just cut the carrots." I didn’t make the dish.

    04:46 I don’t own this. I’m the carrot guy. Or this IPad sucks and it’s not my fault.

    04:52 I just plug in this cable, that’s what I do”. So you’re deflecting the responsibility.

    04:57 Let’s take a look at Written rules and regulations.

    04:59 This is some form of documentation, this talks about when there is a bureaucracy everything is clearly laid out. And there's no ambiguity around well, How do you know about this? We’ll it’s right there in the main documents. 00:05:11.800 --> 00:05:16.300 So the pros are clearly define expectations, equal treatment of employees and continuity even if membership changes. So if you set a bureaucracy correctly, everybody knows a rule. That’s a very very good thing.

    05:24 And everybody gets sort of treated based on the role what they’re supposed to do.

    05:28 There's no ambiguity around that. 00:05:30.300 --> 00:05:35.100 And then, if the membership changes like your manager leaves or 00:05:35.100 --> 00:05:39.500 Somebody within the team leaves that’s okay because they have a clearly define rule.

    05:40 We know the rules, we know the process because it’s all been documented.

    05:44 And so, you’re gone that’s fine. We’ll get somebody to plug in and take your role.

    05:48 Now, the negatives there is that you really don’t have a lot of creativity to think outside the box because you got to follow the process.

    05:55 And you got to do that as it’s laid out for you.

    05:59 You also something called Goal displacement or rules become more important than the goal. 00:06:03.000 --> 00:06:07.200 So say you are part of this assembly line doing whatever you do.

    06:07 And you found a new way to plug in that cable even faster. 00:06:10.700 --> 00:06:13.700 or you’re saying, “You know what, I’m plugging in this cable.

    06:14 The person next to me is plugging in that cable. What if we were just to do with this way.

    06:17 I've saved us a step and it’s an improvement”.

    06:23 And you go on take this to your line manager and you’re saying, “Hey if I knew a new way of doing this. Or I found a better way to cut the carrots.” And that manager or that supervisor says to you, “No, no, no that’s not how we do things around here. You know the process, A goes to B and B goes to C and that becomes D.

    06:40 That’s how it is. That’s the rules. Deal with it.” So now the goal has become much more important than you actually get there. 00:06:47.200 --> 00:06:50.200 Sorry the rules becomes much more important than the actual goal. 00:06:50.200 --> 00:06:54.300 You got to go to A to B to C to D. That’s way more important than saying, “Well, no the end goal is I started at A. and I’m just trying to get to D, okay”.

    07:00 Impersonality. Now, this is when you are supposed to do things in a way where you 00:07:05.400 --> 00:07:08.200 remove some of the subjectiveness. 00:07:08.200 --> 00:07:11.400 So we say conduct activities in an unbiased manner. That’s good.

    07:11 That tries to ensure equal treatment. I’m not hiring you or I’m not asking you to do something because I like you or dislike you. I’m doing it because that’s the way it should be done. 115 00:07:20.000 --> 00:07:22.800 That’s the rule, that’s the job, do it.

    07:23 So that’s a good thing. The bad thing it can lead to alienation and it can feel like the superiors are cold and faceless. There is this following a document 00:07:29.600 --> 00:07:30.900 or an orders that they’ve been given. 00:07:30.900 --> 00:07:34.400 So I’m just following the marching order as supposed to “Hey you know what you’re really good at cutting carrots or you suck at carrots and you’re great to grilling meat. why don’t we actually switch it around.

    07:40 or once you do it this way that a pieces, you and mix things good for you.” Instead it’s, “No, no, no this is how it’s done. And you’re doing at the same.

    07:49 They’re doing the same. I don’t care, who you are that’s how it’s done”.

    07:52 So there's a little bit less of that sort of individuals in that inflected in that.

    07:57 We say impersonality.

    08:00 Now, I’m going to hire you based on your technical qualifications in the bureaucracy.

    08:04 It’s good. so it’s not being influenced on “Hey I really like.

    08:08 or I know your dad, which is why, I’m going to let you do this.” Instead it’s “No this is done, you’re getting in this position or you going to do this because you’re technically qualified. And so that’s it end of story full stop”.

    08:20 But in a lot of ways this may decrease ambitions saying, “We’ll they say, this is what I’m supposed to do. And this is what I’m good at. 00:08:26.200 --> 00:08:29.100 And that’s my technical qualifications. I guess that’s it.” 00:08:29.100 --> 00:08:33.600 As opposed to “Hey, you know what, I’m the carrot guy today. But if I practice, and if I study, maybe, I can actually become the assistant chef and not just the guy who cuts the carrots.

    08:39 Or maybe, I can move down this assembly line and become a manager.

    08:42 Or the guy that actually got to do the electronic or puts in in the box.

    08:45 that’s the better position.” And so that you see there's a decrease in ambition.

    08:50 There's another really unique thing called the Peter Principle.

    08:53 and this was brought forth by Lawrence Peter. And he proposes that each employee will get promoted until they are at the position which they show incompetence.

    09:00 It’s kind of a unique way at looking it. And that they’re in accordance of this model you keep moving up the ladder until you hit a point where you no longer have the skills that or knowledge based be able to move to the next level.

    09:11 Kind of good and bad. You get pushed and pushed and pushed until the point where you can't really do much more you’ve achieved, your max capacity and you’re starting to show incompetence, “Well you know what I promoted him to chef but he's not able to keep up or really late on our orders. You burn all the meals coming are burned.” I think he's probably the best you can do is assistant chef.

    09:32 So I will send him back to assistant chef or I won’t promote him anymore higher than that 'cause he's really maxed up. So we call that the Peter Principle.

    09:39 Let’s examine two different perspectives on bureaucracy.

    09:44 One is something called The Iron Law of Oligarchy.

    09:48 This is states that all bureaucracy is ultimately shift from a true democracy to a state where only a handful of individual make major decisions.

    09:56 Let’s take a look at that in English. What we’re saying here is, bureaucracy might start with a democracy.

    10:04 And that we have everybody kind of has a voice or has a Board and those all this different things that’s in place that allow for some order yet some input a democratic process.

    10:15 but this law states that overtime the bureaucrats, again and you probably heard this term before in society is that the bureaucrats becoming increasingly bureaucratic and a handful of people within that bureaucracy actually make major decisions.

    10:30 So it’s really a formality. to say they have a Board but really at the end of the day the Board is made up of 15 people.

    10:36 and there's 3 people that kind of tell the Board what to do or the Board might say one thing.

    10:41 but at the end of the day it’s the president’s decision.

    10:43 And he’s going to decide what to do regardless.

    10:45 So him and the Vice president they decide.

    10:48 It’s really not a true democratic bureaucracy. It’s more of a dictatorship.

    10:53 When a handful of people actually just make the decisions.

    10:56 There's another term that you probably haven’t heard of and I can't believe we’re talking about McDonald’s in this.

    11:00 but something called the McDonaldlization.

    11:02 And this is where we describe the process of standardization.

    11:06 And it was a process that was really pioneered by the folks you start at McDonald’s.

    11:10 And they said, “Why do I have one chef that’s cutting the tomatoes, cutting the lettuce, making the special Mac sauce, grilling the meat and then assembling the burger and then packaging it. And then, serving it to a pass it to the server to serve.

    11:25 So they’re one person was doing several roles.

    11:28 and McDonald’s pioneered the process of saying listen, “I’m going to have the guy who’s the bun guy. He's job is to literary warm the buns.

    11:35 I’m going to have the meat guy, he's going sit there and he's going to flip all the patties.

    11:39 I have the guy who puts on them mustard and the ketchup.

    11:41 And then I have the guy who adds the cheese. There was this assembling line basically.

    11:45 And again, like I've mentioned before they are quite specialized on what they do.

    11:51 So that process was so efficient. And had a lot of properties we’re talking about in just a sec. That I actually got incorporate it into how businesses and organizations and society today are actually run.

    12:05 So similar components include efficiency, at a fairly efficient way to do work because you now don’t have one guys scrambling. You have we have one guy doing one role.

    12:16 and so you also have something called Calculability. I know now that based on this assembly line to do a burger is going to take me 3 minutes every time.

    12:25 it doesn’t matter how busy we are. It doesn’t matter who’s working the line the numbers tell me that it is 3 minutes every time to make a burger.

    12:34 That’s good and also makes it predictable. I can then say to you I guarantee that you will be eating your burger in 5 minutes after ordering it.

    12:41 because I know it takes 3 minutes to make it maybe 30 seconds to package it.

    12:45 and another 30 seconds to buffer. 5 minutes, I guarantee that you have your burger.

    12:49 How do I know that because of this assembly line formation that is quite predictable? And then follow you have a sense of control. I can control what’s happening and I can make small tweaks and changes.

    13:00 And this whole process with efficiency, calculability, predictability and control is called the process of McDonaldlization.

    13:07 Now, in this scenario what they did was they’re actually able to also increase profits by decreasing time wasted. And they’re able to replace and swap out individual.

    13:18 So again I've used this example already but if your job is to do one thing flipping a burger and you decide you quit or you’re leaving or you get fired.

    13:27 Finding a guy to flip a burger versus finding a new guy to do everything is much easier.

    13:33 And so that replace ability is also another really really important thing that was highlighted with this process.

    13:39 So we’ve gone through all this different processes ending off of bureaucracy.

    13:43 Now we got you think about McDonald’s.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Bureaucracy – Elements of Social Interaction (PSY,SOC) by Tarry Ahuja, PhD is from the course Social Interactions.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Being more efficient
    2. Shifting focus from the big picture
    3. Having clear knowledge of the organizational structure and supervisor
    4. May decrease ambition
    1. Being able to hand over responsibility to others
    2. Feeling separate from other groups
    3. Not being involved in decision making
    4. Being more efficient at personal tasks
    5. Having dependable workers
    1. Continuity between employee changes
    2. Difficult decision making
    3. Increased creativity
    4. Goal displacement
    5. Clear understanding of the supervisor
    1. Fewer instances of unequal treatment
    2. Increased feelings of isolation
    3. Decreased individual responsibility
    4. Improved goal-oriented methods
    5. A high member turnover rate

    Author of lecture Bureaucracy – Elements of Social Interaction (PSY,SOC)

     Tarry Ahuja, PhD

    Tarry Ahuja, PhD


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