Essay on Formal Organizations (Sociology)

Meaning of Formal Organisation:

Formal Organisations represent those organisations which are characterised by a specific function, division of labour, a hierarchy of authority, rationality and a proper arrangement of sta­tuses and role.

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They are carefully, planned and systematically worked out. Examples : Banks, Col­leges, Universities, Factories, Corporations, Government, Political Parties, Trade Unions, Courts, Libraries, Police, Army, Government Offices, Life Insurance Corporations, Religious, Cultural and other organisations.

Characteristics of Formal Organisations:

It was Max Weber who for the first time made a sociological analysis of formal organisation. In his “Bureaucracy “, “Organisation “, “Theory of Social and Economic Organisation “, Max Weber has provided his conception of formal organisation, particularly of bureaucracy.

The main characteristics of formal organisations are as follows:

1. A Specific Function.

Formal Organisation has its own specific function or functions. A university, for example, has the main function of promoting education. But it may also promote the specific artistic, literary, athletic and other interests of the members.

The principal function of the church is religion. But it may also promote charitable, ethical, athletic, recreational, educational, missionary and other activities. Thus, the formal organisation may have its ‘latent’ as well as ‘mani­fest’ functions.

2. Norms.

The formal Organisation has its own norms or rules of social behaviour. Certain conduct is appropriate in a university classroom, a factory, an office, a department store, a hospital, a government bureau, a military unit, and so on.

Students and teachers, foremen and workers, vice-presidents and secretaries, managers and clerks, doctors and nurses and similar other members observe norms in their interaction. Formal Organisation lays down procedure to be followed by the members.

3. Formal organisation Implies Statuses and Division of Labour.

Members of an organisation have different statuses. A bank, for example, may have manager, a public relations officer, a field officer, a cashier, a few clerks, a few peons, and so on.

These statuses determine one’s social rela­tions with other members. Statuses imply division of labour. The division of labour is characteristic of all organisations, and in a sense, organisation is synonymous with the division of labour. Organised actions in a formal organisation are possible because of division of labour.

It contributes to the efficiency of the organisation. Division of labour leads to specialisation. The modern hospital for example, may consist of a number of specialists like the gynaecologists, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthetists’, heart specialists, urologists, neurologists, psychiatrists and others working together, catch one complementing the knowledge and skill of the others.

4. Authority. The formal organisation creates authority.

Where there is no organisation there is no authority, where there is no authority there is no organisaton. Authority is one of the most significant criterions of organisation.

Authority refers to the presence of one or more power centers which control the concerted efforts of the organisation and direct them towards its goals. These power centers also must review continuously the organisation’s performance and re-pattern its struc­ture where necessary, to increase its efficiency.

5. Bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy refers to the administrative aspect of the formal organisation. It refers to the arrangement of the organisation designed to carry out its day-to-day business.

It is represented by a hierarchy of officials who are assigned different responsibilities and provided with different statuses and roles. Here, the roles are official roles. The role is enacted according to its corresponding official status. Status implies authority. Authority resides with the offices and not with the persons.

6. Rationality.

He formal organisation is based on rationality. The rationality of formal organisations has two sources: (i) “the predominance of rules that have been devised to help achieve definite results”, and (ii) “the systematic reliance on knowledge in the operation of the organisation”. “Knowledge” here means something more than the knowledge of the bureaucratic rules.

For ex­ample, a business firm depends upon the ‘professional’ knowledge of a good number of technical experts such as lawyers, accountants, advertisers, scientists, engineers. Similarly, hospitals depend upon medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and many technicians.

7. Relative Permanence:

The formal organisations are relatively permanent. Some organisations last for longer time while others perish within a short period of time. Relatively few organisations survive for generations such as The Roman Catholic Church, The Society of Jesus, and The Bank of France.

The Oxford University which have survived for generations. Comparatively the business organisations are more flexible. Some organisations continue to function by aiming at the fulfillment of new goals even though their initial goals are fulfilled.

8. Tests of Membership:

It is easy to join some formal organisations and difficult to join others. All organisations require certain qualifications. All formal organisations without exception, in fact, are relatively closed.

All of them have tests of membership. It is easy to join political party or
an industry, but it is difficult to get into the army, the Bar Council, the Cabinet of the ruling party. Membership in an organisation is almost always an achieved status, seldom. Merely an ascribed status.

9. Substitution of Personnel:

The unsatisfactory persons of the formal organisation can be removed and others assigned their tasks. The formal organisation can also recombine its personnel through transfer and promotion.

10. A Name and Other Identifying Symbols:

Well established formal organisations have their own names and also symbols. The symbols of identification may be mottoes, slogans, songs, colours, ribbons, seals, trademarks and so on. These are sometimes called ‘symbolic culture traits’, and they serve to distinguish one from the other.