Echanistic and organic organizations are opposite ends of a continuum of organizational structure possibilities. Mechanistic organizations are efficient, rigid, predictable, and standardized organizations.
echanistic organizations are
terized by a rigid hierarchy; high levels of formalization; a heavy reliance on rules, poli
cies, and procedures; vertical specialization; centralized decision making; downward
communication flows; and narrowly defined tasks. In contrast, organic organizati ons are
flexible, adaptable, and team directed.
In particular, o
rganic organizations are
characterized by weak or multiple hierarchies; low levels of formalization; loose rules, policies, and procedures; horizontal specialization; decentralized decision ma king;
communication flows in all directions; and fluidity of tasks adaptable to changing conditions.
Some writers have called attention to the incongruency between bureaucratic and professional norms
they argue that occupants of hierarchical positions frequently do not have the technical competence to make decisions about issues that i
nvolve professional knowledge.
there is a basic conflict in educational organizations between au thority based on
bureaucracy and authority based on professional norms
(Abbott & Caracheo, 1988).
Others support the notion that bureaucratic orientations and professional attitudes need not conflict if teachers are provided with sufficient autonomy to car ry out their jobs
& Sweetland, 2000)
We can conclude from this research that most schools have both bureaucratic and professional characteristics that are often
incompatible but need not be.
suggests an axiomatic theory of organiz
ations that provides a framework for
defining two ideal types of organizations:
His theory identifies eight key variables found in sc
hools and other
are arranged in a means
relationship and are interrelated in seven basic propositions. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCHOLARLY ACADEMIC INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY 2
Eight Organizational Variables
Complexity, centralization, formalization, and stratification are the four variables that constitute the organizational
uctured to achieve
Adaptiveness, production, efficiency, and job satisfaction are the four variables that represent categories for sorting organizational ends
. Let’s examine each
one more closely
or specialization, refers to the number of occupational specialties included in an organization and the length
of training required of each.
specialization and task specialization distinguish the degree of specialization. A teacher who is an expert
in English literature is a person specialist, whereas one who teaches eleventh
English is a task specialist.
The greater the number of person specialists
and the longer the period of training required to achieve person specialization (or degree held
), the more complex the organization.
, or hierarchy of authority, refers to the number of role incumbents who participate in decision making and the number of areas in which they participate. The lower the proportion of rol
e incumbents who participate and the fewer the decision
areas in which they participate, the more centralized the organization. Formalization
, or standardization, refers to the proportion of codified jobs and the range of variation that is
tolerated within the
parameters defining the jobs.
The higher the
rtion of codified jobs in organization
s and the lesser range of variation allowed, the
, or status system, refers to the
difference in status between highe
and lower levels in the organization’s hierarchy.
Differentials in salary, prestige,
privileges, and mobility usually m
easure this status difference.
The greater the disparity
in rewards between the top and bottom statu
s levels and the lower the rates of mobility
between them, the more stratified the organization.
flexibility, refers to the use of
FRED C. LUNENBURG
The more advanced the knowledge base, instructional
techniques, and environmental response, the more adaptive the organization. Production
refers to the quantity
and quality of output.
more concerned with quantity and less concerned
with quality, and vice versa.
variable is difficult to measure because of the dichotomy
between quantity and quality.
For example, some universities are “deg
ree mills”; that is, they award a large number of
degrees each year with little concern for quality. Other institutions are less concerned about increasing the quantity of degrees awarded and more concerned about the quality of the pr
acquired by the
he greater the emphasis
, not quality
the more productive the organization.
, or cost, refers to financial as well as human resources and the amount of idle resources.
For example, class size ratio
s of one teacher to 30
The lower the cost per unit of production, the more
efficient the organization.
, or morale, refers to t
he amount o
f importance an organization
places on its human resources.
Measures of job satisfaction include feelings of well
eeism, turnover, and the like.
The higher the morale and the lower the
absenteeism and turnover, the higher the job satisfaction
in the organization.
Seven Organizational Propositions
Central to Hage’s axiomatic theory are seven propositions, which have been drawn from the classic works of
The major theme permeating Hage’s theory
is the concept of functional strains, namely that max
imizing one organizational
variable minimizes another.
The eight key variables are relat
ed in fairly predictable ways.
For instance, high centralization r
esults in high production and formalization, high
formalization in turn results in high efficiency, high stratification results in low job satisfaction and adaptiveness and high production, and high complexity results in low centralization. These ideas ar
e expressed in seven propositions:
The higher the centralization, the higher the production.
The higher the formalization, the higher the efficiency.
The higher the centralization, the higher the formalization.
The higher the stratification, the higher th
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCHOLARLY ACADEMIC INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY 4
The higher the stratification, the lower the job satisfaction.
The higher the stratification, the lower the adaptiveness.
The higher the complexity, the lower the centralization.
Two Ideal Types
of the eight key variables in seven basic propositions was
used to define two ideal type
s of organizations, as Table 1
. Mechanistic and
organic concepts are organizational extremes that represent pure types not necessarily f
ound in real li
is completely mechanistic (bureaucratic) nor
letely organic (professional).
fall somewhere between these two
Characteristics of Mechanistic and Organic Organizational Forms Mechanistic
________________________________________________________________________ Low complexity
Low job satisfaction
High job satisfaction
type schools tend to have a hierarchical structure of control, authority, and communication with little shared decision making (high centralization). Each functional role requires precise definitions of rights and obligat ions and technical
methods (high formalization).
These schools emphasize status differences between
hierarchical levels in the organization (high stratification); and an emphasis on quantity, not quality, of output at least cost is prevalent
(high producti on, high efficiency). There
is little emphasis on professional expertise in both subject –
matter knowledge and
instructional methodology (low complexity). As well, there is little responsiveness to changing needs of students, society, and subject matter (
low adaptiveness); and human
resources are of little importance (low job satisfaction).
The ideal professional
type school is characterized by high complexity,
adaptiveness, and job satisfaction. That is, school administrators respect the professional kno
wledge of teachers, respond readily to the changing needs of the school and society, and consider the intrinsic satisfaction of teachers to be an important school outcome. Furthermore, centralization is low because administrators encourage teacher partici pation
FRED C. LUNENBURG
in decision making and delegate considerable authority and responsibility to teachers in the operation of the school.
A network structure of control, authorit
y, and communication
School administrators adjust and continually redefine task
s and avo
“going by the book.”
The organization deemphasizes status differences among the
occupants of the many positions in the hierarchy and adopts a colle gial, egalitarian
Low efficiency and productivity also characterize the ideal
School administrators in the professional
type school are not as concerned with
the quantity of output as they are with the quality of outcomes. Professional –
are probably more expensive to operate than bureaucratic
school administrators tend to deemphasize quantity of output at least cost. Such schools tend to be less efficient but more effective.
Each ideal type of school has advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, there are limits on
how much a school administrator can emphasize one variable over another. For example, if there is no codification of jobs (formalization), then a condition of normlessness prevails, which will likely result in low job satis faction among faculty
If schools do not respond to the knowledge explosion, technological innovations, and the changing needs of students and society, schools are apt to fail in the face of an ever
changing environment. Conversely, too high a change rate is likely to result in
increased costs involved in implementing new programs and techniques. Limits exist on each of the eight variables, beyond
which a school dare not more.
expresses it this way: “Production imposes limits on complexity,
tion, stratification, adaptiveness, efficiency, and job satisfaction” (p. 307).
other words, extremes in any variable result in the loss of production, even in a school that has the means to maximize this end.
All the relationships specified in the sev
propositions are curvilinear.
instance, if centralization becomes too high, production drops; if stratification becomes too low, job satisfaction falls. Therefore, exceeding the limits on any variable results in a reversal of the hypothesized
relationships specified in the seven propositions. According to Hage
hese represent important qualifi
cations to the axiomatic theory
The tension between the mechanistic (bureaucratic) and organic (professional) model is constantly ne
n teachers and administrators.
Sometimes it is
resolved in favor of professionals, and sometimes it is resolved in favor of administrators (Bacharach, Reeves, & Guerard, 2000)
Implications for Practice
Because schools are fragile
political coalitions, each decision must be considered
strategically, examining its implications for all the major stakeholders (Lunenburg &
Thus, school administrators must examine several strategic questions before a professional
orientation can be effectively implemented
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCHOLARLY ACADEMIC INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY 6
In which decisions will professional teachers become involved? There appears to be general
among the major stakeholders that teachers should be more
involved in making decisions. However, we need to specify the areas in which teachers will play larger ro
es in decision making.
Who will make what decisions in the school?
How much influence should teachers
have with respect to decisions affecting other
parties in the school
teachers, support staff, principals, central office administrators, school board
members? The roles of these stakeholders may need to be clarified or redefined in a professional
What are the basic tasks o
f administrators and teachers in the context of a
Put another way, what is the basis of teachers’
expertise and professional identity? The amount of participation in decision making probably should be contingent of whether
the issue is relevant to teachers
whether teachers have the expertise to make the decision.
What is the role of teacher unions in a
involvement of teacher unions is a key strategic issue in structuring a professional –
echanistic and organic organizations are opposite ends of a continuum of organizational structure possibilities.
They represent pure types not necessarily found in
Mechanistic organizations are efficient,
rigid, predictable, and standardized
In particular, m
echanistic organizations are characterized by
hierarchy; high levels of formalization;
a heavy reliance on rules, policie
ision making; downward
and narrowly defined tasks.
In contrast, org
anic organizations are
adaptable, and team directed
rganic organizations are
by weak or multiple hierarchies; low levels of
formalization; loose rules,
policies, and procedures; horizontal specialization; decentralized decision making; commun
ication flows in all directions;
fluidity of tasks
adaptable to changing
The most distinct difference between the two orga
nizational structures is
based on the effectiveness criteria of each model. Whereas mechanistic organization s
seek to maximize efficiency and standardization, organic organizations seek to maximize satisfaction and development.
Abbott, M. G., & Caracheo, F. (1988). Power, authority, and bureaucracy. In N. J. Boyan (Ed.).
Handbook of research on educational administration
York, NY: Longman.
B, Reeves, G. R.,
& Guerard, J. B. (2000).
Advances in re
theories of management and educational policy
. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
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