Sociology of the Orginization

The organisation, in the modern day context, has become a body that is made up of its human resource and the quality that this resource base imbibes into the operational sphere of the organisation. The modern day organisation depends to a great extent on the contribution and quality of its human capital. The human capital may be defined as that element of the organisation’s operational sphere that is a living, breathing part of the activities that put the innate resources and factors of production into application. This application results in profits arising out of the activities of the human capital and the efficiency with which this resource carries out its tasks. This in turn, has a bearing on the achievement of the organisation’s goals in the sense that the organisation is structured according to the quality of the HR within it. Also, it shows the principles that are followed by the management in manning the organisation. (Burns et al, 1994) In this regard, this paper will seek to pitch the rational systems theorists like F W Taylor, Weber and Fayol, against modern day theorists like Jackall and, Burns and Stalkers. This paper will delve into the matter of whether or not the process of formalising organisational structures is palatable for modern day organisations. The range of study will also include traditional principles like the division of labour, the authority of line versus staff as well as the hierarchy of authority in achieving optimal spans of control.

To begin with, let us describe the principles of scientific management as laid down by F W Taylor.  Developed by Frederick W Taylor in the early 20th century, Scientific Management is a science based system of organizing the operational areas of the organization so as to ensure the existence of and implement various elements. These included placement of the right man at the right place, at the right time. Also, scientific management propagated a study of the motions and material handling practices within the organization, so as to find the fastest and easiest way of carrying out an activity. In this regard, there was a high level of focus on the implementation of cost accounting in all areas of operation activities so as make operations within the organization more cost effective. Further, Taylor regarded the de centralization of responsibility and authority so as to place a group of men under the supervision of one man, as an important element that could trigger greater efficiency within the operational sphere of the organization. Finally, one of his most important principles was the division of work. He suggested this through the creation of room for four to eight functional foremen who will take care of various aspects of the overall task, so as to ensure that each sub task is carried out as regards minimum motion and cost per worker. (Taylor, 1947) These were the broad underlying principles upon which F W Taylor fashioned scientific management. This school of management thought followed experimentation and scientific rigor to demonstrate various findings. One of these, as will be tested below, adheres to the fact that through mediums like assembly line, it is possible for a group of people doing a few tasks, to out produce those doing all the tasks. (Taylor, 1947)

These principles were in keeping with the division of labour and the hierarchy of authority, as propagated by Fayol and Weber. According to this rationalistic view, everything in the organisation has a place. Thereafter, every man is to take care of a certain aspect of operation. This division of labour is supervised by the distribution of authority so as to form an appropriate hierarchy. Every activity in the organisation takes place according to this hierarchy, whether it involves promotions or communication. The modern day organisation sees it HR in diverse roles, enabling the same to form informal structures where there is a distribution of energy and a mutual understanding which enables one man to finish the job that another could not do. In this way, there is an optimisation of energy as well as resources to meet the common goal. Further, the modern day theorists like Burns and Stalker have defined the role of the new HR in the following light in order to demonstrate how the personal goals can be integrated with those of the organisation. (Burns et al, 1994) These include business partner, change manager, monitor and innovator. These four categories are most basic to the functioning of the modern day organisation. The human resource or human capital element in the organisation ahs emerged as one that perpetuates this role at every level of the organisation through an effective integration of personal and organisational goals. (Burns et al, 1994)

Robert Jackall countered Taylor by saying that there is a requirement for more support and not mere participation of the employee in the management process. He was of the opinion that mere science would not help the organisation without a successful integration of personal and professional goals. If Robert Jackall is to be believed, the modern day organisation structures itself in accordance with the quality of the HR within it. The modern day economy is one that is changing with each passing day, which is a different assumption from that followed by Fayol and Taylor. The state of commerce is not what it used to be, say, a few decades ago. This is basically due to the fact that the new rule of thumb is that the only constant is change. The face of politics has greatly shaped the way the economy of a country and therefore, that of an organisation, operates. In this way, there is a sense of constant interaction with the dynamic environment within which organisations today thrive. The role of communication and technology in this regard, is also an important one. With the advent of the communication and information era, there is a slow redefinition of borders and geographical demarcations. It is now possible to sell products and manage businesses anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world. This has had a large bearing on the state of the balance of payments of entire countries and the organisations that thrive within it. Therefore, change has become a vital part of the organisation’s life, owing to the fact that there is a constant need for reinvention in order to keep with the changing times and the changing levels of exposure. In this regard, change management and knowledge management have thus become a vital part of every organisation’s agenda. (Jackall, 1989)

This change management function is one that operates closely with the business partner and innovator aspect of the HR’s role within the organisation in order to give rise to structures that do not follow any informal lines of operation so as to make the most of knowledge and create a fitting knowledge management structure. This structure is one that is dependant on the knowledge base and the capability of the HR in changing roles as and when required. (Jackall, 1989) The modern day theorists are more concerned with the administration that the mechanics of the manufacturing arena. In this regard, there is a disparity in the thought process that underlines the basic criteria based on which they select the elements for study.

While Jackall and Burns believe that an employee initiates changes, Taylor was of the strong belief that the employee must merely facilitate change and change with the changing environment. The assumption underlying this principle was that there is little interaction between the employer and the employee on a regular basis. Burns and Jackall are of the notion that reactions within the organisation are an effect of the actions of the entrepreneurs or employers which makes their role all the more important. This itself accounts for regular interaction between the employer and the employee. In this regard, the modern day theorists countered Taylor by saying that there must be a better platform to motivate the employees. (Jackall, 1989)

This platform, according to Jackall and Burns will follow as a result of the participation of the employee in change and knowledge management where he or she will be in a better position to monitor changes and partake in the actual goal achievement process. Taylor had depicted the employees as mere machines who needed to be run for the basic organisational benefit in terms of time and economics. Burns and Jackall second that principle by saying that motivation is the key to achievement of organisational goals. (Burns et al, 1994)

Further, Taylor believed in the principle of braking up units to depict time scales and motion study. Burns and Jackall believe that motivational factors as well as personal goals need to be seen as key elements in isolation through the perspective of organisational goal achievement. In this regard, it may be said that there are wide disparities between the modern day theorists and Taylor, in the understanding of the human resource base of an organisation. The new age understanding is an effect of seeing the employee as a business partner more than anything else, which gives the organisation a wider perspective in its operational sphere and functioning.


  1. Taylor, F. (1947). Scientific Management. NY: Harper & Row. (Originally published 1911).
  2. Jackall, Robert. (1989). Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. USA: Oxford University Press.
  3. Burns, T; Stalker, G M (1994). The Management of Innovation. USA: Oxford University Press. (Revised Edition).
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