How do I go about writing a paper on how different management practices might be applied in the workforce and how bureaucratic management might create a competitive edge?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different management practices, including both operations management (OM) and human resource management (HRM) practices. OM practices include the use of information and communications technology (ICT), the use of an inventory strategy called just-in-time (JIT), the use of an approach to improve product quality called Total Quality Management (TQM), and the use of a method for eliminating waste called lean production. HRM practices include methods for "training, development, empowerment and teamwork" (Siebers et al., "Enhancing Productivity"). HRM practices are even guided by management theories and leadership theories. Therefore, the first thing you want to do in order to approach writing your paper is explore these practices and theories, if you haven't done so already, and pick an area of interest to focus on. Then, you want to review some current studies and literature reviews on your area of interest to see what other researchers are already saying about the effectiveness of management practices being employed in the workforce.

One literature review written by Peer-Olaf Siebers et al. (2008) shows that results on studies of the relationship between HRM practices and productivity are varied and inconclusive. For example, while P. Capelli and D. Neumark conclude in their 2001 study that "empowering work practices" are the most important for achieving the greatest productivity, their results also show that the practices increase the costs of labor per employee; therefore, the overall benefit of such practices to a company is inconclusive (as cited in Siebers et al.). Other studies find no direct relationship between productivity and HRM practices, especially since such practices increase costs. However, a study conducted by J. Michie and M. Sheehan in 2005 found "positive relationships between HR policies and practices" and performance, so long as such practices were balanced with business strategies such as cost leadership, innovation-focused strategic leadership, and quality-focused strategic leadership. Overall, Siebers' literature review raises doubts as to whether or not any OM or HRM practices truly do increase productivity, either used jointly or independently. However, Siebers et al. do cite a study conducted by K. Birdi et al. in 2006. The study examined 308 companies over a span of 22 years and concluded that the HRM practice of empowerment has a universal positive effect on productivity. Empowerment is a leadership practice in which managers yield decision-making authority to employees.

Bureaucratic management was posited as a theory by German sociologist Max Weber early in the 20th century. He asserted that an organization must have a well-structured hierarchy and clearly established rules in order to be productive. Today, many scholars are beginning to question the effectiveness of bureaucratic management. Studies show that bureaucratic work environments lead to increased levels of stress. As stress levels rise, absenteeism also rises, and production diminishes. Many scholars, such as Henry Hornstei et al., find that the problem with bureaucracies is that they are organized based on a "redundancy of parts" ("Bureaucratic Organizations Are Bad For Our Health," Ivey Business Journal). In other words, more people are employed in this system than are really needed to do the work, leading to a loss of feeling responsible. When people are controlled by superiors and are uncertain of responsibilities, they feel "frustration, shame, humiliation, anger and contempt" (Hornstein et al.). Instead, scholars are beginning to promote a system that creates a "redundancy of function" because it does not have a system of hierarchy. Instead, all "[e]mployees are paid for the skills they hold, not the position they fill" and treated as peers with equal shares in responsibilities and in the decision-making process (Hornstein et al.).