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Principles and Application of Organization Theory (ot): Synthesis Paper

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Principles and Application of Organization Theory (OT): Synthesis Paper

Alesia Nichols

Capella University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 3

2. Synthesis of Organizational Metaphors 4

3. Business Knowledge, Concepts, Principles, and Models 8

a. Fayol's Fourteen Principles 8

b. Matrix Organization 9

4. Theoretical Model for Organization 10

5. Organizations and Cultural Change 11

6. Functional and Leadership Analysis of an Organization: Erie Sensors 12

a. Research & Development (R&D) 12

b. Marketing 13

c. Production Units (PUs) 14

d. Leadership and Business Performance 15

7. Conclusion 16

8. References 18

1. Introduction

Organizations are perhaps the defining feature of modern life - the average person in an industrialized society lives and works in an environment dominated by a diversity of organizations that undertake a multitude of activities. From behemoths like General Electric (GE) that dominate the technology sector to specialized businesses that offer niche services, modern organizations are responsible for the provision of the vast majority of the world's goods and services. Depending on the theoretical perspective adopted, organizations and their functioning can be thought of in many different ways. The field of organization theory (OT), which has been in existence for the past six decades, specializes in the academic study of organizational phenomena at the macro and micro level; it is a 'policy science' i.e. a practical field that seeks to create a body of research aimed at an easily identifiable body of practitioners (Tsoukas & Knudsen, 2005, Ch. 1). OT draws upon scholarship from the sciences, arts, and humanities; therefore, it encourages the OT scholar to adopt an interdisciplinary perspective that can yield deep insight into the structure and functioning of organizations. The application of OT extends to all aspects of organizational functioning: from strategy/finance, marketing, and information technology, to operations, human resources, and communication (Hatch, 2006. Ch. 1).

The evolution of OT has been influenced by a variety of theoretical perspectives; it is important to remember here that OT is not a single theory but rather a loose agglomeration of theories that are informed by several approaches to ontology and epistemology. Both Hatch (2006, Ch. 1) and Heugens & Scherer (2010) note that the majority of OT scholarship is inspired by one of three paradigms or philosophies: modernist, symbolic-interpretive, and postmodern. These have given rise to three communities of scholarships, which are ideologically polarized based on their alignment with one or the other side in the central ontological and epistemological issues of OT: individualism vs. collectivism, realism vs. constructivism, and instrumentalism vs. institutionalism. For example, the modernist view is staunchly individualist, realist, and instrumentalist; organizations are viewed as rational, goal-driven agglomerations of individuals, with formal rules of functioning and clearly defined structures that are real and objectively knowable. The symbolic view of organizations (collectivist, constructivist, and institutionalist) investigates the role of symbols and their role in evolving meaning within organizations; organizational reality is deemed to be socially constructed. On the other hand, the postmodern perspective is more philosophically diverse, and seeks to emancipate OT from any rigid doctrinal moorings; it seeks instead to engage with the substantive processes of organizations as well as with their symbolic and socially constructed realities.

2. Synthesis of Organizational Metaphors

The Welsh-Canadian author Gareth Morgan is arguably one of the most prominent contemporary scholars of OT. Morgan (2006) advocates the view that metaphors (i.e. comparisons drawn to real-world images) represent ways of thinking and ways of seeing that can be used to understand the structure and functioning of organizations. Cornelissen & Kafouros (2006) note that Gareth Morgan's representational approach is essentially constructionist; since organizations cannot be physically apprehended, they must be understood by mapping structure and meaning from other domains like mechanics, politics, or psychology. They note further that metaphoric representation is one of the primary ways in which scholars frame and understand organizations, and that the success of any metaphor depends on (1) the degree to which the metaphor can capture multiple aspects of the organization's structure and functioning, and (2) how easily the metaphor can be understood by OT practitioners. Morgan (2006), cognizant of the limitations of a single metaphor, introduces a number of metaphors to explore various aspects of organizational structure and functioning. He notes explicitly that a single metaphor cannot but be limited in its scope, and that a holistic understanding of organizations can only be gained when a mix of metaphors are employed.

Morgan (2006) introduces eight metaphors for organizations in his book: machine, organism, brain, culture, political system, psychic prison, flux & transformation, and instrument of domination; each of these metaphors yields different analytical insights. Certain organizations may be apt exemplars for specific metaphors depending on their core nature: Morgan (2006, Ch. 2) notes that mass production and service organizations (e.g. McDonalds) are most likely to behave like machines. In such organizations, systems, processes and even individuals are expected to follow set routines and behave with clockwork efficiency and precision. Organizations designed to function like machines are expected to operate in a "routinized, efficient, reliable, and predictable way" (Morgan, 2006, p. 13). The machine metaphor focuses on the rational and structural dimensions rather than the fluid or social dimensions - it views organizations as bureaucratic, mechanistic entities which are specialized, in which operations are standardized, and wherein individual and collective behavior is predictable (Cornelissen, 2006).



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