Educational Organizations as Machines

Subject: Education
Pages: 6
Words: 1750
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: PhD


During the last centuries, many scientists and professional researchers devote much time to the analysis of the essence, work, and functions of bureaucratic systems. The development of bureaucratic systems promotes certain improvement of work that needs to be performed by college/universities administrators to present proper effective institutions. The peculiar feature of any bureaucratic institution is the possibility to present rationalized structures and maintain the process of decision-making. Though educational organizations are able to share the necessary power and important values only, these types of organizations may be regarded as bureaucratic as well. To achieve successful results in such type of analysis, it is necessary to consider colleges and universities in different ways as organizations and systems (Birnbaum, 1). Gareth Morgan admits that “organizations and organizational problems can be seen and understood in many different ways” (1998, p. 299), this is why the purpose of this paper is not only to define an educational organization as a machine but also to explain its governance and administration using traditional organization theory that is inherent to educational administration. The Autism Collaborative Center is taken as a successful example of a non-profit educational organization that aims at organizing the access for the most challenged students to high education, setting up certain educational standards, and improving services, which are obligatory at colleges and universities; this educational organization as well as its governance and administration has to be framed and organized as a machine and gets the peculiarities similar to machine/professional bureaucracies.


Essence of educational organizations

Nowadays, the variety of educational organizations is impressive indeed. These are different types of schools, colleges, and universities, which are offered to students in accordance with their age, location, and the level of knowledge. As a rule, all education organizations should have a certain set of marketing (management) needs, which have to be met. These organizations aim to make educational communities powerful and recognizable at different levels. To achieve these purposes, it is necessary to provide effective leadership, develop plenty of educational reforms, and take care of technological development. Gareth Morgan defines any organization as “complex… multifaceted… paradoxical” this is why “the challenges facing managers and practitioners are often so difficult” (1998, p. 3). Those people, who purpose the aim to become a good leader, need to enlarge personal level of knowledge about the images constantly.

Machine bureaucracy is a part of organizational configuration

Max Weber was the one, who introduced the term “bureaucracy” as an organization that should be based on rules and competence (McKibbin 1981). It is also called an ideal one (Merton, 1968). To present an ideal machine bureaucracy, it becomes important to consider the following elements, which are illustrated in the chosen education organization, the Autism Collaborative Center. An organizational structure promotes communication of authorities and other positions. By means of educational reforms and financial aid, the authority is able to support people both customers and employers. Another characteristic of the machine bureaucracy is a proper division of labor, when a person knows about his/her responsibilities and tries to succeed in completing each task. The Autism Collaborative Center is a principal source of information for different people, this is why its leaders attempt to divide duties accordingly and follow its proper accomplishment. Henry Mintzberg (1989) identifies six main stages also known as organizational configurations, and machine bureaucracy turns out to be one of these integral parts. The essence of the machine bureaucracy lies deep in the ability to control the process of management because this kind of organization deals with daily technical activities, where the relations between these activities need to be pure sequential (Aart, 2005). The demands for the machine bureaucracy are clear: work has to be formalized and organized in accordance with the existed standards, and decision-making process should take the first place due to its urgency. Taking into consideration such requirements, the machine bureaucracy should be regarded as an integral part of any large company that is responsible for a considerable amount of the activities, and all work is coordinated by means of a powerful and properly organized mechanism. The peculiarity of this organization is the ability to adapt to the required changes within some period of time. The machine bureaucracy is characterized by stable environment (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009) that cannot be broken or even disturbed by unpredictable changes; this is why if a company needs to make certain changes and improvements, certain times and conditions are available to the machine bureaucracy.

Governance and administration of machine bureaucracies

Birnbaum (1988) says that it is necessary to coordinate and control the work of individuals by means of certain directions, which are introduced by a superior officer. The governance of machine bureaucracies should happen only within the frames of this organization, but never outside of it. The leaders have to define the boundaries and make sure not to break them somehow. One of the ideas on how to organize a proper administration is to focus on the decision-making process because the purpose of this process within a machine bureaucracy is to “maximize the values of the decision-maker” (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 57). Another important point in machine bureaucracy administration is a power hierarchy (Etzioni, 1964). As it was mentioned above, there is a burning necessity to create some kind of rank divisions to make one group of people complete their functions and be under the control of another group with a high rank that is responsible for the success of the results. Someone may think that division of power leads to unpredictable results, and the desire of one person to take higher positions will be the reason to use some rude methods. To avoid such consequences, it is necessary to admit Gouldner’s words about the differences in power and a number of impersonal or general rules, which “serve in part to obscure the existence of power disparities” (Gouldner, 1964, p. 165).

Professional bureaucracies and their main purpose are to standardize personal skills

The professional bureaucracy is usually found within a complex but still stable environment (Birnbaum, 1988). This type of organization is responsible for skills standardization, training, and indoctrination. Due to its name the professional bureaucracy, only perfectly trained and sophisticated people may be hired in order to control the work and development of the organization. These professionals need to work independently: it means they try not to communicate with their colleagues but focus on communication with clients and improvement of the offered services. The power of expertise is considered to be the main issue during their work. If the machine bureaucracy is organized vertically (the labor is controlled by the authority); the case of professional bureaucracy differs considerably and follows a kind of horizontal specialization. However, there is one shortage of this organization – the lack of centralization, and due to this shortage, the representatives of professional bureaucracy try to control their tasks and duties by means of rules, which may be developed in the applicable similar position. The Autism Collaborative Center may serve as a good example of the professional bureaucracy. It is necessary to consider the aspects of teachers’ autonomy and the variety of complex services, which are offered by professionals. The government of the Autism Collaborative Center gathers in separate rooms and discusses different points separately of other representatives of the educational staff. They make decisions that help to improve the current state of affairs (as inherent to the representatives of the machine bureaucracy), but their actions cannot be controlled by the others, because they are already those professionals, who know for sure what has to be done and why such steps are important (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2007). The programs that are offered by the Autism Collaborative Center are individualized; this is why it becomes very important to consider the demands of both children and adults to achieve the desired success and development of the organization.

Governance and administration of professional bureaucracies

The sophisticated writers explain that the professional bureaucracy differs considerably from the machine bureaucracy. If the governance and administration of the machine bureaucracy are based on its own standards grounding on colleagues cooperation, the representatives of the professional bureaucracy choose some outside sources (the Autism Collaborative Center as an example, where its representatives come from different places in order to create certain standards and make each organization follow them). In other words, “the machine bureaucracy relies on authority of a hierarchical nature – the power of office – the professional bureaucracy emphasizes authority of a professional nature – the power of expertise” (Mintzberg & Ghoshal, 2003, p. 373). To comprehend the administration of the professional bureaucracy to its full extent, it is better to continue comparing it with the machine bureaucracy. For example, according to the rules of the machine bureaucracy, “a person who is a leader in one field is not necessarily a leader in another” (Etzioni, 1964, 61). In the case of the professional bureaucracy, there is no concrete leader in the organization. The members are trained enough to present their personal standpoints, support them, explain to the others, and make the others accept the same position. The strategies that are offered by the representatives of the professional bureaucracy may be characterized as individual as they happen within an organization, and as associated because they have an impact outside.


The differences between the machine bureaucracy and the professional bureaucracy play a very important role in the governance and administration of education organizations. After thorough analyzes of the peculiarities, which are inherent to both types of bureaucracies, it becomes evident that such educational organizations as the Autism Collaborative Center is a perfect example of how duties and responsibilities need to be divided and controlled. If the Autism Collaborative Center is regarded as the machine bureaucracy, it is necessary to consider the role of the director of this organization and her abilities to systematize and control work on different levels. However, this organization has a considerable number of characteristics inherent to the professional bureaucracy. Hired professionals are able to organize their work in the way that many other people benefit from the services of this organization. In general, the Autism Collaborative Center may become a powerful machine bureaucracy as well as a strong professional bureaucracy because its mission is not only to provide each challenged student with a chance to get higher education and accept this world as it is but also to assure the stuff with a chance to develop, train their skills, and demonstrate their qualities, which may improve the work of this organization.


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