Chapter Two: Organizations as Rational Systems
From a rational system perspective, organizations are instruments designed
to attain specific goals (Scott p. 29). Some of the rehetoric used in this
perspective is words like information, efficiency, optimization, implementation,
and design. Other "rational" terms are constraints, authority,
rules, directives, jurisdiction, performance programs, coordination.
The two main characteristics of rational systems are goal
specificity and formalization.
Most early theorists emphasized the rational perspective and viewed organizations
as deliberate and purposeful. The rational schools were:
Scientific Management (Taylor) --
focused on using time-and-motion studies to optimize work procedures and
Administrative Theory (Fayol)
-- developed general guidelines of how to formalize organizational structures
Bureaucratic Theory (Weber) -- beaucracy
is a particular type of administrative structure developed through rational-legal
authority, and is becoming the
primary organizational structure in modern society.
Rational Decision-Making (Simon) --
Simon clarified the processes by which goal specificity and formalization
contribute to rational behavior in organizations through a focus on decision-making.
Taylor and Simon operated mostly at the social psychological level, focusing
on individual actions and decisions. Fayol and Weber focused on the structural
level, attempting to conceptualize and analyze the characteristics of organizational
forms (Scott p. 49).
The rational schools tend to emphasize the rationality of the structure
itself, not the rationality of the people in it. Bennis dubbed the rational
system perspective "organizations without people" (Bennis, 1959).
They focused on structure and ignored actual behavior of organizations.