The administrative structures

De Baripedia

We will see how Weber thought about the structure and now how we see the structure in the light of Weberian light and according to the contributions of Crozier and psychosociological criticism. There are different types of administrative structures and organizations. We will try to see what their limitations and benefits are. The first two types can be described as ideal-typical or building blocks that will be used in the other three types.

Organization by function[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 organisation par fonction 1.png

Two main ideas govern this type of organization: the idea of specialization[1], people need to concentrate on a task they master, and the idea of strict hierarchy[2] with a very centralized and pyramid-like view of the organization of public administration. Coordination between departments is done through hierarchical channels. The Directorate-General is responsible for coordinating between the various departments. Very often, it is a mode of organization used for the functional services of public administration:

  • personnel management;
  • information;
  • finance;
  • accounting

The organization by function is often found where functional services are found, but it is possible to imagine a public service organized solely by function with specialties that exercise competence in matters of concern to it. It is a model that is quite similar to the idea of a Weberian "steel cage" with specialized people, hierarchies and coordination through the summit.


  • Take advantage of the specialization of tasks: skills, professionalization and standardization. The objective is to give a quality of service that is the same for everyone;
  • reduction of vertical coordination costs: centralisation of the decision by the Directorate-General. The question of coordination is resolved vertically. Consistency in public administration could be more easily guaranteed. In other words, consistency is guaranteed by the decision-making centre;
  • No duplication of work: there is one service that does not duplicate skills in each of the departments and departments.


  • risk of compartmentalization between functional divisions:"baronnies", selfishness and esprit de corps, there is no overall vision. Everyone is concerned about his or her department and there is no overall view of what is happening in the administration;
  • slow decision-making processes, cumbersome coordination and bottlenecks at the top: especially if there are different points of view between divisions;
  • lack of autonomy and little clear accountability from the various divisions: the risk is that people behave passively and simply do what they are asked to do * lack of generalists;
  • no overall customer vision.

Through this model, there is an attempt to deny the political responsibilities of public administration. Only one actor with a political function is the Directorate-General. The three political roles as presented by Bezes are not taken into account. It is a component found in almost all jurisdictions.

Organisation by product, operation or customer[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 organisation par opération 1.png

A hierarchy remains unique, but below it, there is not more functional service, but on the contrary divisional directorates from which there will be much more autonomy given to managers through operational divisions. The executive management will define broad strategic objectives and within the division, the broad strategic objectives will be translated into more rational objectives. Political power is not confiscated by the Directorate-General, but can also be exercised at the level of the operational division, which can be articulated in four different ways:

  • division by product: division by political object, there is an autonomy to define strategic objectives;
  • division by client: we will create different divisions according to the clients of the public administration. Divisions are no longer organized around a political object, but around the public and public administration in particular;
  • division by region: in some countries administrations, sections or services are available for certain regions;
  • division by process: the divisions will set up a specific process. For example, the budget process must follow a certain number of steps and the division by process will allow the necessary skills to be focused on completing the budget process.

The main difference with the organization by function is that there is a given autonomy at the divisional level.


  • relieves management of operational tasks: it can concentrate on the overall policy strategy and leave the division's translation of strategic issues into the working method;
  • facilitates coordination and accelerates decision making within each division: this is a division-specific strategy;
  • flexibility for the division manager: adapting to changes in the environment, customer proximity;
  • promotes delegation and performance monitoring;
  • reorganizations without transforming the entire administration.


  • risk of inconsistencies between divisions: too much empowerment of divisions;
  • risk of increased costs: duplication of functional skills, lack of synergies between divisions;
  • lack of consideration of general or transversal problems affecting the whole administration: risk of capture by clients or regional interests. The risk of capture is that the organization or division that is supposed to be working for the public interest, instead of working for the public interest, will work for the particular public it is supposed to be dealing with;
  • possible difficulties linked to the lack of centralisation of the decision: for example, if there is no willingness to cooperate between the divisions and the Directorate-General.

What solutions are being discussed to get out of each of these two types of organization and to reconcile and combine the benefits? How can the advantages of hierarchy be combined with the advantages of autonomy, specialization and a global vision? How can we promote equal treatment by ensuring that public administration is not captured by vested interests in a context where cost and efficiency control is important? We are in a context where the emphasis on effectiveness and efficiency is dominant. Solutions have been proposed to meet this challenge.

Functional and operational organization[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 structure fonctionnelle-opérationnelle 1.png

It is a type of organization that we find regularly, it is the most frequent. The idea is to say that we are going to introduce central agencies into the public administration that will be in charge of so-called "functional" services. One centralized unit will deal with human resources management, another unit will deal with information, etc. managing all the crosscutting elements found in all departments of the public administration.

Central services also called "staff agencies" will help to provide the necessary support so that people who are closer to the field and can perform their duties. These are services which will ensure cooperation between services which will also be more operational. Staff agencies make sure that the different divisions pull well together, that there is no conflict and that they follow the same objectives. Two functions are important: providing central and necessary services[1] and avoiding operational duplication[2]. A third function is that of "adviser to the Prince"[3], adviser to the General Administration. There will also be a business planning function[4]. These functions have been assigned within the framework of this structure assigned to the staff agencies.

The operational level is responsible for delivering benefits and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the public service. Staff agencies have a "back office" role and those in the field are the line agencies, i. e. those who are in contact with the public. The risk is that everything at the operational division level will be designed according to the business unit model.

The risk is that "staff agencies" become operational service controllers and will monitor what is happening at the operational level, which could create a barrier to autonomy that should be left to the operational division. There is a risk of significant conflict between staff agencies and line agencies in the field. This risk of conflict arises in the following way: very often,"staff agencies" will assume that the operational level resists coordination in line with their own interests, and "line agencies" would be captive of the public interest. There would be a natural tendency to be spendthrift, to have a corporatist vision of an administration and to be concerned only with its interests. Line agencies that tend to see functional services as being in a form of "ivory tower". The "line agencies" will call into question the skills of "staff agencies" and they will denounce the tendency of "staff agencies" to confiscate power.

This structure can have drawbacks and limitations in the way public administration structures are managed. Political power is largely reserved for staff management and line agencies. We are in an implementation where operational autonomy is highly regulated.

Matrix organization[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 organisation matricielle 1.png

The idea is to say that we are not going to put a hierarchical link between staff agencies and line agencies, we are putting them on the same level. We will create an organizational matrix, at each intersection, this will give rise to collaborations between the departments concerned. The important point is that there is no hierarchy between the departments that collaborate at the intersection of a row and a column. We are trying to remove the question of hierarchy, which was the problem in the functional and operational organization. The matrix structure offers a less hierarchical organization by interlinking services.


  • A more global view of problems due to the inclusion of diverse points of view: it is a system that makes it possible to reduce the tendency to compartmentalize public administration;
  • fluidity of the structure: avoids the compartmentalisation between management and services and enables innovative solutions to be invented;
  • ability to adapt to customer and competitive requirements;
  • development, staff motivation, internal collaboration within teams, staff mobility: employee participation in decision-making;
  • decisions based on specialist knowledge rather than on the formal authority of the decision-making centre: unloading of central management.

The benefits are largely derived from the idea of promoting the idea of autonomy and decompartmentalization of public administration. Disadvantages arise from the same source as advantages.


  • Two-dimensional flow of authority: at a crossroads, the risk is to have two chiefs, there will be no clearly established decision-making responsibility between these two services, one obeys two chiefs. This goes completely against Fayol's principles. In the matrix approach, there is a two-dimensional approach to authority whereas in other types of structures, there is only one direction. Thus, there may be contradictory instructions and possible power struggles;
  • conflicts between functional managers and managers by operation, region and project: rejection of responsibilities in the event of failure;
  • slower decision-making process due to the number of people involved;
  • Paradoxically, there is a tendency for more bureaucratization to set up projects and resolve conflicts: the matrix organization, when it fails, can paradoxically lead to a re-bureaucratization of the organization.

Organizing by Process[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This model was put forward by two Swiss authors Thom and Ritz in Public Management: innovative Konzepte zur Führung im öffentlichen Sektor, published in 2006, who are trying to find a refined and elaborate mode to answer the previous questions. We are entering a model that is complicated. The idea is to find an organization chart that addresses all of the combined problems in order to exploit their advantages and eliminate their disadvantages. This model has inspired a number of reforms in the Swiss federal administration.

Beyond the functional, operational, functional-operational or matrix organization: Thom and Ritz will talk about the organization by process. Public administration must be reformed to concentrate forces by identifying central processes (Kernprozesse). Central processes are chains of activities that result from the choices, objectives and strategic missions of the administration. On the other hand, they take into account all the players involved (from upstream suppliers to downstream customers) and define and delineate the clear responsibilities of each actor in the chain.

Similarities with Objective Based Management (OBM)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Management by objective is an idea taken over from management. In The Practice of Management published in 1954, Drucker shows that process organisation will integrate the idea of objective organisation. Organizational management will be organized around the allocation of objectives by providing (quantified) targets to be achieved, by giving employees the opportunity to contribute to the definition of objectives, and by evaluating the results in relation to the objectives set. The idea of organization by process has strong similarities with the idea of direction by objectives. This means giving more operational autonomy to people on the ground.

Steps to follow for an organization by process: Thom and Ritz[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Three steps must be followed in order to find the most appropriate solution to the problems identified.

Definition of administration processes according to their usefulness for clients[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 processus de administration en fonction de leur utilité pour les clients 1.png

Clients may be internal to government, but most of the time they are external clients. When trying to define administrative processes, three types of processes should be defined:

  • management process: strategic and operational activities. Questions will be asked about how to implement management processes and how to manage them. A general mission will be defined at the political level and operational activities will indicate how this general objective is to be achieved and what instruments are to be used to steer it. The mission must be established by objective agreements that will be signed with the people responsible for implementing the objective agreements.
  • central processes: what are the processes that will be identified as essential? This follows rules with the first criterion being social utility[1], the second one being non-substitutability[2], the third criterion being the idea of non-imitability[3]. It is not a question of multiplying central processes, but it is necessary to limit ourselves to a maximum of five central processes. The aim is to analyse the work done in public administration and focus on the achievement of central processes.
  • support processes: these are the supports that will be needed by central processes to ensure that they are properly implemented, such as information technology, law, etc.

Organizational structuring of processes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 structuration organisationnelle des processus 1.png

Depending on the functions, complexity and, or clients, they think about how the central processes will be structured. Partial processes can be organized in different ways depending on the client, the complexity of what to do, the functionality and complexity of the tasks.

Responsible for central process management: managers and their teams[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 gestion des processus centraux 1.png

There are two central characteristics: proximity to the customer [1] and wide margin of manoeuvre [2]. The diagram describes how the partial processes should be organized. For each of the sub-processes, the idea is to set up teams that will make it possible to achieve the desired objectives as well as possible. What becomes important at the sub-process level is no longer the structure, no longer the organizational chart, but the people and people who must be available to cooperate, versatile, ready to share with others and in teams, there is no hierarchy that can be put in place. There will be a team manager, but not a hierarchy per se. There is the "job enlargement" because we broaden the skills and missions and the "enrichment job" is the fact of giving people decision making skills in the team concerned, and the "self-control", these people would be motivated and will necessarily act and give the best of themselves to achieve these objectives.


  • process speed: direct sequencing of all tasks;
  • reduction of complexity: by the limited number of central processes:
  • customer focus: more strategic and customer-focused;
  • Cost reduction: by eliminating tasks that are not essential to the processes;
  • Improving quality and innovation: through customer orientation.


  • may underestimate the need for specialized knowledge and expertise, as well as the need for competent staff for certain functions;
  • risk of conflict between several (teams of) processes involving the same clients;
  • risk of process overpiloting: with the fiction of continuous optimisation down to the smallest details;
  • too great a reduction in hierarchy: may lead to new conflicts.

Conclusion[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The search for the structure of an ideal administration faces three obstacles that hinder the establishment of an ideal administrative science or administrative structure according to Dahl in The Science of Public Administration: Three Problems, published in 1947:

  • « Writers on public administration often assume that they are snugly insulated from the storms of clashing values [...] The doctrine of efficiency is a case in point » ;
  • « The field of organizational theory serves as an extreme example, for it is there particularly that the nature of man is often lost sight of in the interminable discussions over idealized and abstract organizational forms » ;
  • « There should be no reason for supposing, then, that a principle of public administration has equal validity in every nation-state, or that successful public administration in one country will necessary prove successful in a different social, economic, and political environment ».

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]