Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Projects in Academic Institutions: Between Bureaucracy and Post-Bureaucracy

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Projects in Academic Institutions: Between Bureaucracy and Post-Bureaucracy

Article excerpt

1. Entrepreneurial vs. Hierarchical Structure

Currently, as many organisations tend to adopt a more entrepreneurial culture instead of a hierarchical structure, a project is becoming a prevalent work form (Rajan, Wulf, 2006). Introduced in late 1950s in the US defence and aeronautics industries (Harrison, 1981; Winch, 2000), project management was later integrated into the fields of heavy industry, engineering, IT, finance, insurance, banking, publishing, pharmaceuticals, health care, media, advertising, state authorities etc. The reasons of this shift are regarded controversially. On the one hand, it was noted that post-bureaucracy emerged due to the fact that rigorous bureaucratic organisations were incapable of coping effectively with rapid technological, economic and social changes (Castels, 1996; Heckscher, 1994; Perrone, 1997) and that "established bureaucratic controls have been found insufficiently responsive and adaptable to intensifying competitive pressures" (Alvesson, Willmott, 2002: 620). On the other hand, the post-bureaucratic discourse is treated as a part of "fast capitalist story" including competition, globalisation and speed of change (Grey, Garsten, 2001).

The paper addresses issues of bureaucracy and post-bureaucracy, as well as social capital and empowerment in order to frame theoretical perspectives for interpretation of empirical evidences from 3 focus groups at a university, which discussed its seven-year experience of EU Structural Funds project management. The empirical material is provided in the following 4 sections of the paper. The qualitative study revealed tensions in one organization, identified as matters of control, work-pay and responsibility which could be treated as areas where broader conflicting attitudes of employees are expressed. The paper is concluded by discussion referring to theoretical framework provided initially.

2. Bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic styles of organisation

What is post-bureaucracy? How does it differ from bureaucracy? Post-bureaucracy is usually described as opposite to traditional bureaucracy, Weberian "iron cage", different from "the creaking, paper-driven, inflexible and inefficient bureaucracy" (Hodgson, 2004:83). Predicting the "demise of bureaucracy and hierarchy" (Kanter, 1989: 351) also implied the emergence of an organisational form, flexible and adaptable, "that lead by persuasion and incentives rather than commands; that give their employees a sense of meaning and control, even ownership" (Osbourne, Gaebler, 1992:15), "in which everyone takes responsibility for the success of the whole" (Heckscher, Donnellon, 1994: 24). A post-bureaucratic organisational form is said to liberate employees from inevitably dysfunctional hierarchical constrains (Adler, 2001). C. Heckscher (1994) proposed dychotomic model summarizing features of the both - bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic - organisational types (see Table 1). They all give us a clear concept of the two ideal types, and two of the features might be of a particular importance for an academic setting: 1)the division between the emphasis placed on rules and regulations and the emphasis placed on the organisational mission, which actually gives freedom for action in a clearly defined and known-by-all frame, and 2) monopoly of information versus shared strategic information.

The shift in the mode of control over employees is an additionally defining feature, as the new type of organisations gives birth to new forms of control: "indirect and internalised control, including cultural and ideological control" (Heydebrand, 1989: 345), or control through culture, norms and trust (Grey, Garsten, 2001). Some authors even treat post-bureaucracy as breaking the old dichotomy of direct control or responsible autonomy by a more effective regime of ethico-moral control (Hodgson, 2004), "the creation of shared meaning, which obviates the need for the principles of hierarchy and explicitly rule-governed behaviour" (Sewell, 1998: 408), while building "a culture of learning within the organization" (Raelin, 2011:137), "learning leadership" (Senge, 1990), horizontal communication and mutually therapeutic relationships (Tucker, 1999). …

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