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Essay: Foundations of Managing and Organising (Summative Essay)

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King and Lawly (2016, p. 97) described rationalization as the “methods for increasing the efficiency of work, drawing on techniques of bureaucracy and of rational work design, such as Taylorism and Fordism”. Rationalization generally increases the efficiency of the business, and it reduces costs and waste, which all organizations want, thus being the reason why they might consider adopting the approach. Rooting back to our initial problem on ‘how to control an organization as it grows in size’ the simple answer is through personal and direct control using techniques of rationalization. Firstly, rational organizational design is “the official organizational structures and activities in order to achieve the organization’s goals in the most technically efficient manner” (King and Lawley 2016, p. 32). Bureaucracy lies under this umbrella and includes the official characteristics of an organization, such as the hierarchical structure which permit control to be applied over the entire organization.

Rational work design can be described as work as a means of achieving clearly defined ends in the utmost cost and time efficient manner by dividing it into simple repetitive tasks that need little to no skill. Henri Fayol (1949), a famous theorist and manager, encouraged bureaucracy as an issue of rational, technical design. On the other hand, Max Weber (1968) was disapprovingly focussed on its effects on people and society. Nonetheless, both agreed that the key advantage of bureaucracy is its ‘technical efficiency.’ These perceptions will be discussed in detail throughout the essay which will concentrate mostly on this area.

Different perspectives that exist in addition to rationalisation will be analysed. Finally, the purpose of this essay is to evaluate whether rational work design provides the ‘one best way’ to manage and control work in contemporary organisations such as Junction Hotel.

Frederick Taylor identified a set of practises known as ‘Taylorism’ that are still evident in contemporary organizations (Taylor, 1911). Taylor was dedicated on designing efficient work and gaining control. Workers at the industry could not be controlled as easily as components in a machine. They had skilled jobs which gave them an advantage over Taylor as their skills were not as easily replaceable, ‘rule of thumb’ (Taylor, 1911: 16). He outlined 4 principles of scientific management which include division of labour, scientific selection of workers, the division of work between managers and workers, and finally having management and the workforce cooperate. Taylorism faced extreme resistance in the beginning. The 1912 US congress even concluded that the techniques were never to be used in American government facility again. In spite of this, it gained popularity during the first world war as the techniques were used to enable unskilled women work in factories. From then on, it began dominating factories in other parts of the world.

Lillian and Frank Gilbreth refined Taylor’s time and motion study and prolonged it into different areas such as retail and office work. They taped people executing various work and then examined and restructured their movements so they could accomplish tasks more efficiently (Price 1992, p. 61).

Ford developed Taylorism techniques further by finding ways to make them more efficient in the production of a motor car through the ‘assembly line’. This was even more domineering than Taylorism, because all that needed to be done to increase efficiency was to increase the speed of the assembly line and the only way this could have functioned is if the product was very standard. The Model T Ford initially took 12 hours to make, but with the assembly line, production of each car took 93 minutes. The work however, became dehumanizing for workers, and just like Taylorism, they were transformed to ‘cogs in a machine’. The assembly line has now been applied to numerous comparable jobs which have repetitive, unvarying fundamentals such as the food production industry.

Rational work design is still present today as it was in the industrial revolution. Ritzer (2015) noted that McDonalds restaurant use rationalized techniques that have origins in scientific management, bureaucracy and assembly line. Its organizational procedures are found in many modern-day organizations. This led Ritzer (2015) to conclude that today’s society is ‘McDonaldized’. Banks and cinemas are examples of Mcdonalized organizations.

Bauman (2000) labelled our present-day world as fluid. There has a shift from bureaucracy to post-bureaucracy and from Fordism to post-Fordism and neo-Fordism. Post-Fordism and post bureaucracy are moving away from rationalization and towards flexibility, dissimilar to neo-Fordism, and Mcdonaldization.

In the service sector industry, production and consumption take place simultaneously and the experience forms part of the product. In some respects, the work found here is not as different as we’ve seen with McDonald’s. Gabriel (2005) initiated the idea of the ‘glass cage’ to synopsize the service sector work; a mixture of Weber’s iron cage and the transparency of workers. This leads to performative labour which Bryman (2004) cited involves workers having to put on a performance to satisfy consumers. It is divided into emotional labour, and aesthetic labour. This is comparable to Bryman’s ‘Disneyization of society’ which can be seen in themed parks, restaurants and tourist areas,
Other examples of contemporary rationalization include warehouses, where the time and motion study, neo-Fordism and assembly line can be observed. Another significant example is the gig economy (Uber or Deliveroo) which involves self-employment. Lastly, is automation, which includes controlling people from a distance and automating certain tasks of management. It is very popular in the manufacturing industry.

According to Max Weber’s studies of society (1958), authority was coming more from the position being held, which he described as ‘rational-legal authority’. He proposed the ‘substantive rationality’ which finds the most efficient means to achieving ends and takes account of the effects of actions in human and ethical terms. Weber saw rationalization as taking away people’s independence and ensnaring workers in a menacing and repressive ‘iron cage’. He noted that there was an elimination of the ‘magical’ enchanted elements because of the changes in society which he named ‘disenchantment’.

Bureaucracy can occasionally have unintentional consequences known as dysfunctions. First, is the ‘red tape’, when “rules and paperwork get in the way of work and activities rather than helping tasks to be performed efficiently” (King and Lawly 2016, p. 56). Another dysfunction is what Merton (1940) described to be ‘bureaucratic personality’, workers doing precisely as they are told by the rules and procedures. Blau (1963) discovered that people who bend rules got the work done more efficiently than those who followed them strictly.

Another important critique of rationalization is the Marxist critique. Marx believed there was a conflict of interest between the workers and managers. He listed a number of negative effects rationalization has upon workers called ‘alienation’.

This waste of human potential is resonated in Harry Braverman’s (1974) deskilling thesis that evaluated the loss of craft skills under rational production techniques. He proposed two particular areas of deskilling, organizational and technological deskilling.

Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne studies were “a series of studies that ran from 1924 into the late 1930s; widely credited with discovering the human side of organization” (King and Lawly 2016, p. 133). Mayo’s assumptions of the studies include motivating people through social and not financial needs. He believed that in order to make work productive, strict rules and teamwork must be enforced. The studies challenged the dehumanizing Taylorist approach by showing the significance in being alarmed with the interest of workers. However, they have also been broadly condemned for intensifying management control.

Gareth Morgan (2006, p. 27) discussed that rational work techniques such as Taylorism are suitable for machine-like work environments. He stated that some organisations have become extremely prosperous by using such techniques. Although he considered rational work design appropriate for stable working environments, its inflexibility makes it problematic for coping with changes in circumstances and in the production of varied goods.

Junction hotel is an independent luxury hotel in a city center location which as recently suffered a fall in customer demand due to the current economic recession. After numerous changes in its possession, the hotel is now controlled by business entrepreneur, Simon Chance who is aiming to turn it around. He has analyzed the current situation of the hotel and has underlined the high amount of stress levels and misperception in organization within departments.

The reception system at Junction hotel generally works well with all receptionists, porters and concierge working effectively as team. However, this system frequently collapses when the reception becomes busy due to problems in the way it operates.

This section of the essay will be analyzing the effects that rationalization will have on Junction Hotel, specifically in the reception, and whether it is the ‘one best way’ to control and manage the hotel.

Meg Mortimer, the general manager who has been working at the hotel for 25 years, still uses face-to-face management, which as we have seen, has not helped in the past. Meg also interferes in all areas of work concerning the hotel. In the reception, undefined hierarchical roles and poor structure can be perceived. Workers often take situations into their own hands. This can be solved by introducing bureaucracy and a clear organizational structure. Taylor’s 4 principles of scientific management can also be applied to solve this. Taylorism will enable staff to work in conjunction with the rules and procedures at the hotel. By using division of labour, clear roles and responsibilities will be outlined. The tasks can be broken down into smaller repetitive ones in order to increase efficiency. Ford’s assembly line approach can also be applied in terms of breaking down the work process in smaller tasks to increase efficiency.

Taylor’s time and motion studies can be used to increase the speed at which workers perform, so as to avoid queues and keeping customers waiting when the reception gets busy. Phil Weaver, Simon’s partner, uses these studies for the cleaners in particular. He records them and monitors how they work.

Workers at the hotel still use manual means of keeping records, which are slow and non-efficient. The reception can benefit from developing a trusted online system, more suitable to customers as it is a luxury hotel.

An increase in efficiency is not always affected in a positive way as Ritzer (2011) explains using McDonald’s as an example. He suggests that people’s creativity can be controlled in the repetitive work. It makes workers become demotivated and inefficient. Meg Mortimer feels unhappy because she was demoted, and her 25 years of experience have gone to waste. She also mentioned how there is ‘too much drudgery and not enough work interaction amongst the staff’.

Braverman’s (1974) deskilling thesis suggests that workers could lose overall knowledge of the production process by doing unskilled repetitive tasks, (for example a receptionist’s work which is now replaced by just preparing room keys for the guests) and the removal of workers skills through new technology such as the introduction of a new self-check-in system at the reception for customers. On the other hand, deskilling brings an advantage to Simon, because it now means that workers can be easily replaced.

The introduction of new technology creates benefits, but it links humans to ‘machines’ and therefore is dehumanizing.

Gareth Morgan states that rational work design is successful within contemporary organisations when the there is a ‘straightforward task to perform’, ‘when the environment is stable’, ‘when the product produced are exactly the same’ and when the human ‘machine’ parts behave how they were designed to. These basically describe the type of work that goes on in the reception. Since Junction hotel is a luxury hotel, emotional labour has to be involved. It is therefore important that employees remain positive, smile and engage with their customers, similar to a performance. Working in the service sector, workers have an evident interest in the customer’s satisfaction. However, emotional labour can be hard. Jane Grimes who works at the bar constantly deals with non-complying customers and feels uncomfortable in her dress code. She seems to be working the same shifts and finds no flexibility in her work. Introducing human relations may help solve this and in general, be a means of managing employees on their needs and not just the needs of the customers, for example anyone who requires a holiday or sick pay. This relates to Mayo’s suggestion about using social means to motivate employees.

Junction hotel holds pride in its luxury, and since employees now have delegated roles, they are able to work better as a team to meet the needs of the customers.

In conclusion, although there may not be a ‘one best way’ to manage and organize, and rationalization may not possibly be appropriate for all organizations, it is still very present in the contemporary organizational world. It can only be applied to an extent in Junction Hotel, especially during this economic period. Classic theories of rationalization were primarily aimed at making organizations more efficient in terms of increasing profits, but with changes in our society, modern competitive organizations have understood that organizations have different objectives to achieve other than making profits, hence Junction Hotel has to integrate distinctive evaluations of economic and social aspects linked to productivity and satisfaction of human needs.

References

Bond, S. (2018). Amazon teams with Marriott to put Alexa in hotels | Financial Times. [online] Ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/84e8f960-736c-11e8-aa31-31da4279a601 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].

King, D. and Lawly, S. (2016). Organizational behaviour. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.29-165.

MacEacheran, M. (2017). HENN-NA HOTEL: WHAT IT’S LIKE TO STAY IN A JAPANESE HOTEL STAFFED BY ROBOTS. [online] Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/asia/japan-robot-hotel-booking-location-hennna-sasebo-tokyo-what-is-it-like-a8103766.html [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].

Morgan, G. (2014). Images of Organization. London: Sage, pp.26-31.

Ritzer, G. (2014). The McDonaldization of society. 8th ed. Los Angeles: Sage.

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