McDonaldization of Information Provision

In April 1955 the first franchised McDonald’s restaurant was opened. Most of us are familiar with the fast food chain which provides a signpost of familiarity wherever we are. Many organizations are now considering McDonalidization, exploring how key principles of McDonald’s could be applied across diverse industries.



[image courtesy of M. Bickerton 2014]

Ritzer (2013) discusses four components of McDonaldization, defined as the process by which the principles of McDonald’s are being adopted in different fields. The components are efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. Let’s imagine that these components were applied to information provision.

Efficiency would refer to the minimum expenditure of time and other resources to gain access to information. In fast food restaurants, detailed analysis is conducted of every process in providing food to the customer. This includes the number of actions to be completed in each process, the number of steps a member of staff walks between areas of the kitchen and counter, how far staff reach to operate machinery and collect items, and collision analysis to avoid staff getting in each other’s way. Imagine how much time could be saved if this was applied to information access, reducing the number of navigational menus in systems such as Sharepoint.

Calculability focuses on quantitative measures such as time taken to reach the restaurant, time taken to be served and size of the portion. Reducing the time taken to access information is great but to what extent can we afford to sacrifice some quality of information to achieve time savings?

Predictability of product and service is achieved through standardization of product and process across the franchise. Some information reports can be standardized and accessed through standardized processes, but it is the non-standardized queries and the ‘odd’ situations which are often the most problematic and the most interesting. Information retrieval often focuses on the routine but it is the non-routine situation which absorbs immense time and human resource. At times, the non-routine situation is more common than the norm.

Predictability is also achieved through the final component of control, limiting the options available to both staff and customers. This includes access to facilities, systems and menu options. In information provision it is sometimes the inflexibility of information systems that cause the most problems, forcing staff to adopt workarounds which adversely affect data quality.

So whilst efficiency and calculability are principles that may be seen as enablers to consider in information management, predictability and control are barriers that information management needs to address.

Further Reading: principles of information management are discussed in Chapter 6.


Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:

Cox, S. A., (2014), ‘McDonaldization of Information Provision’, 2 May 2014,, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]

© 2014 Sharon A Cox