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Case analysis of Barsetshire County Council (BCC) Essay

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The case analysis of Barsetshire County Council (BCC) implies the need for the organizational and managerial change that it felt necessary and the aftermath of implementing the changes. As a public service organization the BCC felt that power should be devolved to the middle management and the change of organizational structure is necessary to meet the uprising demand of services by the locality and to effectively run the activities through out various departments.

According to Weber’s analysis of bureaucracy, it is an omnipresent form of administration in modern society, where power and decision making authorities are held by the higher level of the organization.

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Development in the early twentieth century in scientific management associated with names such as Taylor, Urwick and Fayol, gave great support for bureaucratic systems of organization for their efficiency, stability and the elimination of waste. The larger the organization, the greater the degree of bureaucratization (Dawson). BCC, one of the larger county councils, formed as a bureaucratic structured public service organization, having a large number of employees over 28,000.

The new CE of the BCC realized that power should be devolved to the middle management. He felt that the change in organization and management was necessary to ensure effective strategy implementation. According Nadler and Tushman(1990) the executive is a critical actor in the drama of organizational change. As being a bureaucratic organization, the BCC teamed up with new management view to turn it to a flexible, organic organization, which is more adaptable to new and unstable conditions (Burns, 1963).

Now days it is obvious that, the very ability of an organization to survive will depend on its ability to master the process of change (Iverson 1996; kanter et al. 1992; Zimmerman 1991) .The situations that triggered this organizational change in BCC were referred as, though the organization was run by high professional philosophy, the business was not aimed at customer need and demands. But which is vital as a public service organization. Shortage of resources was also a norm in BCC and it was under tighter control of upper level management. And these all resulted from the narrow span of control, too many hierarchical steps of management and tightly prescribed role.

It is necessary to explain here the term ‘Devolved management’. It means empowering the management team in an organization in decision making and taking initiatives as necessary and required for the operation of the organization. The situation is opposed to mechanistic systems; where decision making authority flows down from top to bottom manner, but more towards organismic system, which refers to more adaptive and lateral in environment (Burns, 1963). Thus the necessity of changes in the BCC was widely disseminated to the middle mangers and the key factors of the changes were widely emphasized. These key factors of organizational changes will be described shortly.

Strategic management is the set of decisions and actions used to formulate and implement strategies that will provide a competitive superior fit between the organization and its environment as to achieve organizational goals (Prescot, 1986). Before initiating an organizational change, certain strategic planning must be done to ensure the proper functionality of the changed management. The essence of formulating strategy is choosing how the organization will be different (Porter, 1996). A well defined strategy helps the organization to achieve core competency, synergy and value creation.

A devolved management, as in the case of BCC, means giving more power to the middle level management, who are in charge for implementing overall strategies and policies defined by top managers. So, top level management’s responsibility is to define a clear strategy and lead the mid level mangers toward it. As a public organization like BCC, customer orientation is a vital issue. So strategy of the changed organization should comply with this.

Leadership is reciprocal, occurring among people (Kouzes and posner, 1990) leadership is people activity, distinct from administrative paper shuffling or problem-solving activity. It is dynamic and involves the use of power. The goal of senior executives in many corporations today is not simply to wield power bit also to give it away to people who can get jobs done (Stewart, 1989). A devolved management enables the managers to become more focused about the goals and being empowered to take initiative they can practice the leadership role in doing things like entrepreneurship, risk taking and proactive. Which enable the organization to be more effective and help the employees to be customer centered.

The need for organizational change in BCC emphasized this by devolving power to the middle management.

An effective work force is an asset of an organization. The employee in an organization, which is flatter and practices Human relations approach, performs better than others. Training and development of employees represent a planned effort by an organization to facilitate employees learning of job related behaviors (Keys and Wolfe, 1988).

Also performance related rewards encourage employees to increase their effectiveness. BCC initiated performance related pay for white collar staff as the requirement of its organization change. As it is assumed that, they (white collar staffs) have a purely calculative involvement with the organization; so remunerative power is used to obtain their compliance (Etzioni, 1975). Also enriched jobs improve employee motivation and satisfaction and the company gets benefited from higher long-term productivity, reduced costs and happier employees (Dalton, 1998).

An organization’s structure is defined by how tasks are formally divided, grouped, and coordinated change agents can alter one or more of the key elements in an organization’s design. For an instance, departmental responsibilities can be removed, and span of control widened to make the organization flatter and less bureaucratic. In decentralized organization, having less hierarchy levels, decision authority is pushed downward to lower organization levels. Employees have their right to make decisions and to take initiative, which is the vital part of a devolved management.

The organizations are now a days turning to Horizontal organizations. The vertical approach such as traditional functional structure does not work nay more, as tend is toward breaking down barriers between departments, and many companies are moving toward horizontal structure based on work processes rather than departmental functions (Hurwitz, 1996)

Organizational culture refers to system of shared meaning held by members that distinguishes a organization from others (Becker, 1982). It can act as a barrier to change as well. But the actions of top management have a major impact on the organizational culture (Hambrick and mason, 1984). In a flat dynamic organization, employees have their own say in decision making, initiate change and realize their accountability in their jobs, which are rare in bureaucratic hierarchical organization. In BCC, the top management identified that a new culture replacing the old one was necessary to initiate new devolved management.

Now it is needed to evaluate whether the BCC was successful in implementing the changes.

In a devolved management decision making power of the middle managers is more emphasized. Delegation, which means transfer of authority and responsibility to positions below the hierarchy also arise (Leana, 1986) in devolved management. It frees middle manger from seeking authority from the top level management whenever any situation needs instant attention. It also increases creativity and perception.

As a result of devolution of management in BCC, the management of the Social service Department (SSD), the line mangers were given more power and control over decision making. That raised more accountability among the managers which enable the subordinates to reporting and justifying task outcomes to those above them in the chain of command (O’loughlin, 1990). In devolved management, the need for self esteem (Maslow, 1943) arises in empowered mangers. At also makes them running toward goal. Intentions to work toward a goal are a major source of work motivation (Locke, 1968). The performance of the managers ultimately increases.

But too much accountability hampers the smooth functionalities of the managers. It creates hesitation and more complexity. It just like ‘Goal Blocking’- occurs a when person’s motivation has been aroused but attainment of goal is thwarted in some way.

To maintain service, the managers need resources. The empowered management can use the allotted resource successfully despite scarcity. The mangers have more control and accountability in providing services as a result. In BSS after devolution, management properly focused on the needs of the client instead of resource led services customer oriented business was emphasized.

Technology- driven workplace in which ideas, information, and relationships are becoming important, is the most dramatic element of organizational change. In BCC the introduction of computerized financial management enabled the mangers to increase decision making responsibilities in budgeting.

But problem arises when top level management still have control on resource allocation after giving away the power to the middle level management to decide in using the recourses. It limits functionality. If mangers are given limited resources but are expected to improve work performance, it is a dilemma for the managers as the middle mangers of BCC faced after devolution.

Moreover, the newly devolved management system had a good affect on specialists support staff of finance, personnel, and information departments. They were widely dispersed having their head of profession at the center to ensure proximity with the service and business needs instead of being centralized. This was a key feature of organizational change in BCC, ‘being close to the customers’.

But some felt it as a predicament that, the communication gap was large as the specialist staffs were controlled centrally in pre-devolution period. So, still there remained some structural barriers in specialists’ service. The managers didn’t understand the activities of the specialist support staffs. Actually, though devolution evolved in SSD, the department of specialists was not ‘devolved’ fully.

The devolution of management in BCC, specially in SSD (Social Service Department) was introduced both with the emergence of positive and negative aspects of it as every thing has those two sides naturally. But the balance on the positive side was far heavier than that of negative side. All middle mangers were happy (except few) with the new devolved management system, which empowered them to take decisions regarding their fields and to take initiative with out asking permission of higher authority.

The accountability and the clarity aroused with in the employees. The efficiency of mangers to use the scarce resources according to the need and demand of consumers also increased. That means the mangers were becoming more responsive and cautious about the customers. The overall situation was improved in BCC after the devolution of power. But as the ‘dark side of the moon’, the devolved management faced some negative waves of thoughts from some mangers of BCC. They felt that, though they had been given additional responsibilities and decision making power, they had not been given the full authority. Some occurrences were opposed to the initiatives as the CE announced those to be needed for the organizational change and devolution of power to the middle management.

Finally, it can be said that; the initiative and implementation of devolved management and organizational change for effective implementation of strategic planning in Barsetshire County Council (BCC), were totally appropriate as being public service organization. But in reality, fully devolved management cannot be possible for some factors. If the middle mangers are biased, or they are not totally focused on the goal, the devolved power they practice does not make any good to the organization. On the other hand if upper level management holds potential control over some major areas such as resource allocation of organization after devolution, when middle managers are expected to make decisions, major conflicts may likely arise between management team.

Thus this will lead to frustration and job dissatisfaction among middle mangers. In a public service organization like BCC, consumer orientation is vital. So, upper level management and the middle level management’s dedication will be concentrated on achieving customer’s contention by providing required service. Even there is hoax about empowering mangers. Many empowerment initiatives fail to deliver their expected advantages and that employees can end up less committed than before (Cunningham and Hyman, 1999).

Also empowerment may turn to disillusionment- because managers tend to assume that more interesting work is sufficient rewarding, they find themselves working much harder for the same remuneration (Cunningham et al, 1996). The introduction of Organizational development is then necessary for effective organizational change, which is a collection of planned- change interventions built on humanistic- democratic values that seek to improve organizational effectiveness and employee well-being (Porras and Robertson, 1992). Now a days more and more organization are turning to devolved management, the top level managers believe , this would make the subordinates more goal oriented and the barriers and conflicts between management level would be removed, thus the organization could turn into a learning organization.

Barsettshire county counsil was not an exception to this.


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* Carrie R. Leana (1986), “Predictors and Consequences of Delegation”, Academy of management journal, Vol(29), 754-774.

* Alan Hurwitz (1996), “Organizational structure for the new world order”, Business horizons (may-June), 5-14.

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* Cunningham et al (1996), “Empowerment: The power to do what?”, Industrial Relations journal, vol(27), 143-54.

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