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.

Rational Schools

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 increase productivity.

Administrative Theory (Fayol) -- developed general guidelines of how to formalize organizational structures and relationships.

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.