Key Points:1. Organizations are living systems, depending on their wider environment to meet their needs.2. This metaphor is a move away from the Mechanistic view to a more Biological view.3. Organizations are open systems and must adapt to grow and survive. If they do not adapt they will weaken and may die.4. In certain environments, certain organizations tend to appear and thrive. e.g. Bureaucratic organizations function best in orderly, stable environments.5. Organizations operate more efficiently when needs are met.
Development:1. Much of organizational theory since the 1920s has rested on overcoming Taylorist/Machine theory2. The Hawthorne studies were the start of an understanding of workers’ social needs and motivation.3. Maslow’s theory dispelled the view that wages alone were motivation enough.4. Herzberg’s, Argyris’ and McGregor’s work on job enrichment and meaning led to HR management.5. Studies by the Tavistock Institute of HR (Trist & Bamforth) led to the Socio-Technical system.6. Next development was the Open Systems Approach.
Open Systems Approach:1. Emphasis on Organization’s environment.2. Organisations are made up of interrelated sub-systems, like organisms are made of interrelated parts and organs.3. Establishes congruencies/alignments between different systems, as socio-technical matches human and technological requirements. These ideas have helped us break away from bureaucratic thinking and have led to the perspective of Contingency Theory.
Contingency Theory:When changes in the environment become the order of the day open flexible styles oforganizations are required. An organization may, at stages, resemble numerous metaphors.1. Organisations are open systems needing careful management to satisfy and balance internal needs.2. They also need to adapt to environmental circumstances.3. No one best way- Appropriate form depends on the task and environment.4. Management must concentrate on achieving good fit.5. Different types, or “species”, of organizations are needed in different environments.Electronic firm competing in an unstable, varied environment needs to adopt an open, organic form, while amass producing manufacturing firm would adopt a mechanistic, bureaucratic form. A military force may nedto adopt both forms at different stages.
Variety of the Species:Henry Mintzberg developed 5 “species” of organisation to show how different organizationswork better in different environments.The 5 species are Machine Bureaucracy, Divisionalised Form, Professional Bureaucracy, Simple Structure and Adhocracy. Mintzberg found that effective organization depends on:1. Developing a cohesive set of relations between structural design.2. Age, size and technology of firm.3. Condition of the industries the organisation operates in.Machine bureaucracy work best in stable, simple environments while Adhocracy tends to work best in anunstable and turbulent world.
Natural Selection & Ecology:1. View that environments select organisations for survival and are the most powerful force in their survivability. “The survival of the fittest.”2. Contends that Contingency theory attributes too much flexibility and power to organisations in their survival. Resource scarcity and competition play bigger role.3. Shift from how organisations adapt to environment to how different species of organisation rise and decline in importance.4. Closely aligned to Darwin’s view on evolution.5. Many critics of this view, too deterministic, i.e. Doesn’t matter about managerial decision or strategy adopted.6. Too one sided view, does not allow for collaboration, diversification or value creation as means to survive and grow.
Strengths of the Organism Metaphor:1. Main strength is emphasis placed on organisations relationship with it’s environment2. Makes survival the key aim of any organisation.3. Focus on needs encourages the view of organisations as interacting processes that need internal balance as well as in relation to it’s exterior environment.4. The different species of organization present us with different options when organising.5. Emphasis the virtue of the organic form of organization.6. The ecology view emphasis the importance of interorganizational relations.
Limitations of the Organism Metaphor:1. Most organizations are not as functionally organized as organisms.2. Can lead us to see other relevant views as wrong. The idea of a political organization seems abnormal when viewed through the organism view point.3. Myopic to view organizations from one view point.4. Danger of metaphor becoming an ideology, as happened with machine theory.