The traditional debate between organic versus mechanistic organizations provides a limited caricature of bureaucracy as rigid authority that stifles creativity and decision making while mitigating adaptation in dynamic competitive environments. Taking a different perspective can illuminate bureacracy as a means to focus employee and commitment. Researchers Paul Adler and Bryan Borys (1996) introduced this concept to the organizational development field when they published foundational research proposing the idea of leveraging bureacracy to enable efficiency without enslaving employees.

The researchers proposed both positive and negative views of bureaucracy:

Distinguishing between enabling and coercive types of formalization illuminates the difference between good and bad procedures that employees experience. Distinctions between enabling and coercive bureaucracy suggests a means to characterize organizations by type and degreee of formalization [see Figure 1], as follows:

This framework demonstrates how employee outcomes are positive or negative depending on whether formalization helps employees master their jobs or management to force employee compliance. Through enabling bureaucracy, compliance comes through employee commitment while fostering performance and satisfaction. Through coercive bureaucracy, forcing compliance creates an environment in which employees do the minimum amount of work necessary to meet requirements while avoiding getting in trouble. Adler and Borys (1996) concluded, "enabling procedures help committed employees do their jobs more effectively and reinforce their commitment" (85). In short:


Figure 1. A typology of organizations

 enabling bureaucracy 


Adler, Paul S,  Borys, Bryan. (1996). Two types of bureaucracy: Enabling and coercive. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(1), 61.  Retrieved October 5, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 9698342).