The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss the view that mechanistic and bureaucratic organisations will probably struggle to encourage organisational learning. The structure and learning perspectives of organisational analysis will be used as academic lenses to view and propel this discussion. Relevant theories will be applied to analyse my own organisational experiences (direct and indirect). Examples derived from case studies of organisational situations will be looked at so as to make the discussion more cohesive. To begin with definitions of the perspectives in question will be given as to make understanding of the different types of organisations clearer. According to Drummond (2000) mechanical imagery depicts organisations as static machine-like entities operating in a steady and predictable manner. Likewise, the metaphor of bureaucracy suggests that people in organisations are bounded by rules, job descriptions and organisation charts. It is important to note that Taylor’s philosophy is founded upon mechanical imagery. The key concepts in the structural perspective are based on Taylor’s principles of scientific management and Weber’s ideal bureaucracy. Taylor (1911) formalised the principles of scientific management into four objectives which are division of labour, one best way, scientific selection and training and monitor performance. In Taylor’s view, organisations need clearly articulated objectives, sharp divisions of labour, specified hierarchies and responsibilities and formalised systems of control. Taylor saw people as near-automatons (robots), potentially troublesome perhaps, but basically programmable given proper supervision and appropriate incentives. In Taylor’s eyes, the existence of contradiction and ambiguity in organisations were signs of managerial weakness, something which could and should be eliminated. His work is basically a recipe for clarity and control (Drummond, 2000). According to Taylor (1911), output could be increased not by requiring operatives to work harder, but by showing them how to work more efficiently. Taylor came up with scientific management for shop floor workers but I have realised that even the fast food industry has adopted the same kind of set-up. Whilst working in McDonalds on the BigMac grill there was a systematic approach to work and it was timed, 1 – place buns in toaster, 2 – after thirty seconds place burgers on grill, 3 - dress the buns, 4 – place burgers on buns. This routine was done by two people and we would do this all day. Steps 1 and 3 would be done by one person and steps 2 and 4 by another; this was done so that the person handling meat stayed there and not touch the buns. It was like an assembly line because the burgers moved from one employee to the other doing different things but to achieve the same outcome. Constant monitoring was in place as we were given stars according to progress or put simply as to how many different stations you can work at, e.g. a star for each station - tills, chips or chicken. The layout of the kitchen looked like one conveyor belt going round and round. Critics have mentioned that mechanistic approaches work well when the task is straightforward, stable environment, replication, precision and compliance. All these attributes are greatly present in McDonalds and the other fact was that we had to clock in and out we were expected to behave like machines to be predictable and efficient. Extreme forms of the machine metaphor of organisations are seen in the bureaucracies and mass production factories - of which McDonalds is a bit of both. Weber based his ideal bureaucracy model on legal and absolute authority, logic and order. In Weber's idealised organisational structure, the responsibilities for workers are clearly defined and behaviour is tightly controlled by policies, procedures and rules. To a certain extent organisations should have some sort of bureaucracy and there are a number of bureaucratic structures....
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