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Making Sense of Organizations

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Dsicuss about the Making Sense of Organizations.

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Introduction

Organizational behavior can be defined as the behavior of individuals in a particular organization. Organizational behavior acts on three different levels- micro-level (individuals in an organization), mesolevel (work groups), and macro-level (the way organizations behave). It is seen that a person behaves differently in an organization. When separate from the organization, the behavior is different. Previously, organizational behavior did not get any recognition. It is only in the 1940s and 50s that organizational behavior came into existence as a distinct discipline ((McShane and Glinow 2015). However, the multidisciplinary field has evolved significantly over the past few years. Various disciplines like psychology, sociology, engineering and economics have influenced the organizational behavior largely. Influence of anthropology has changed the understanding of firms as communities. It has introduced concepts like corporate rituals, organizational culture, and various symbolic acts. Researchers say that ethics is crucial in an organization. Some methods such as quantitative research, computer simulation, and qualitative research, are used to determine the behavior of an organization. Statistical methods such as correlation, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, time series analysis, multiple regression, and non-parametric statistics are used to analyze organizational behavior. Organizational behavior comprises corporate culture ((Miner 2015). Broadly speaking, organizational culture involves behavior and values, which contribute largely to the development of a unique psychological and social environment. The culture of an organization plays a pivotal part as the cultural values influence the behavior of both the employee and the company. Culture is something invisible to the eyes but affects the behavioral patterns and the thought process of an employee to a great extent. Organizational culture may be a liability or an asset. Research shows that organizational culture and behavior is as important as organizational structure and strategy. The essential elements of organizational culture include assumptions, behavioral patterns, norms, values, and artifacts. Though the society is prone to change, organizational behavior is almost change resistant due to defensive routines and cognitive processes (DuBrin 2013).

Like the evolution of humans, the roots of organizational studies can be traced back to the 1940s. In fact, humans’ capability of organizational activity pre-dates to the recorded history. In the present times, Chester Barnard, Henri Fayol, and Mary Parker Follet are some of the practitioners of management and organization. All the theories by these professionals articulate that motivation and human behavior are of utmost importance to understand management effectively. Fredrick Taylor, one of the first few management consultants, applied the principles of management to increase human efficiency. In the late nineteenth century, Taylor identified the scientific management approach to determine the most efficient way to conduct the task. Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth developed Taylor’s ideas and formulated the motion and time study to improve work efficiency. Organizational culture provides relevance to the history of business (Robbind and Judge 2012). Introduced in the late 1970s, organizational culture has attracted significant attraction over the past few years. Organizational scholars argue that organizations possess shared values, distinct cultures, norms, and beliefs that guide the actions and attitude of the members. Organizational culture affects the outcome as it creates competitive advantage, and distinguishes one company from the other. The maintenance and creation of an organization become complicated due to the heterogeneity of culture. Scholars have approached organizational culture from the fundamentalist and interpretive perspective. The culture of an organization, thus, also creates the personality and identity of an employee. Andrew Pettigrew is widely considered to be the pioneer who created the concept of organizational culture. Pettigrew said that culture is an amalgam of identity, myth, beliefs, and rituals. Hofstede, Deal, Kennedy, Schein, Smircich, Martin subsequently developed the concept and postulated more theories based on their research (Nica 2013).

According to the theory of Schein, culture is manifested on three levels namely, artifacts, values, and underlying assumptions. Technical rationality forms a pivotal part of a culture in the modern era. Its roots can be traced back to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Technical rationality comprises a set of strong belief in the organizational culture. Technology is very much responsible for cultural change within organizations. The working culture and habit of an organization can be improved by examining the culture of an organization deeply. There are two parts in the rational system- Formalization and Specificity of goals. Since organizations do not complete access to every information, organizations cannot be rationally perfect. It is seen that organizations often fail to predict outcomes accurately. They are thus guided by limited search and intelligence and a few thumb rules. Limits of Rationality help organizational management and decision making process. Such limitations are institutional and contribute to creating structures. The analogy that can be used here is that of a sailboat that is on its way to the harbor. To move forward, the system of the organization must be such that it can detect environmental aspects and compare it to the rules that guide behavior and correct mistakes. In organizations, employees are deemed responsible for their mistakes (Schein et al. 2015).

Organizations are often considered a technical problem. Organizations must be rational systems and work efficiently. However, since organizations deal with humans, the implementation becomes difficult than in theory. This struggle to achieve the best results in mechanization in people.

Politics play a significant part in defining the culture of an organization. In fact, it can be said that organizations are political structures and exercise power and authority. It is no surprise, then, that high motivation acts as a boon for people who want to secure their position and power. Such people find a hospitable business environment. Some managers cocoon themselves into the safety of organizational politics(Örtenblad et al. 2016). Recognition of the vitality of personality and political factors and a sensitive decision on the part of the managers can influence the employees to a great extent and improve the quality of life within an organization. Politics may have both a positive and an adverse impact on the productivity of a company. Power and politics govern decision making. People with power may use it in a positive and negative way. In fact, power and politics determine the overall culture and productivity. While positive power encourages productivity, negative use of power may decrease it. Positive power encourages employees and rewards them. It develops motivation and confidence. It does not use coercion to implement policies. Employees are given the opportunity to voice their grievances. On the other hand, people using their power negatively do not respect employees working under them. It shows favoritism to certain employees and does not recognize employees who work hard and contribute to the productivity. This results in high turnover rates (Fink et al. 2012).

Thus, organizations that utilize power and politics for their means create a culture of negativity and lead to unethical and dishonest behavior of the employees. Bank of China has an enormous potential to grow. However, the political and cultural environment creates uncertainty and risk for foreign investors. Politics thus decreases productivity, affects concentration, spoils the ambiance, changes the attitude of the members, demotivates them, increases tension and stress, and conveys wrong information to the employees and the people associated with the organization. Politics is an inevitable part of an organization. In fact, self-interest forms the basis of all activities. It negates the rationality myth of organizations. It is hard to define power and recognize the socio-political implications that it may have (Bushe and Marshak 2015).

The psychological perspective focuses on the internalization of the culture within an organization. Organizational culture provides a cognitive framework and hence gives a sense o security and stability. The beliefs and values of an organization offer deep insight into the governing factors. The creation of an organization may be both conscious and subconscious. Realities that are constructed socially have power and existence of their own. People get trapped due to their flawed understanding of reality, groupthink processes, slack, and success. Organizations fail as they are often unable to change the policies with which they began. Institutional inefficiency is created as a result of the organizations’ margins for error. The metaphor of psychic prison gives many perspectives and hence gives us insight into the organizational trappings (Van and Litz 2016). It draws attention to the rational understanding, ethics, barriers to change and innovation, and power politics. Human psychology is complex and multifaceted. People need to grow, bond with others and develop their self-esteem. While people come into organizations to fulfill these requirements, organizations reshape individuals according to its needs. 

Working in Bank of China for over ten years, I think that the company values corporate culture. It strives to achieve better results in a responsible and professional way. It has a strong sense of cohesion and mission. A company must have corporate values and culture for it would guide the company in its day to day interaction within the bank and with other businesses as well. The bank adheres to principles like responsibility, honesty, trust, and ethics. The bank embraces teamwork and pursues development through right means. The bank has sound coordination and communication. This helps the bank to grow and grasp opportunities which lay on the way to its excellence. It respects and rewards people who are talented. The bank prompts its employees to apply their knowledge in practical situations and thereby react promptly. The bank focuses on maximizing the returns of shareholders through excellent management and good yields. However, there is no creative environment in the bank. Also, there are cultural hierarchies which act as a hindrance in the efficiency of the bank. The bank must increase its creativity and must reduce its bureaucratic policies. Researchers often point out that a company must not only take into account its employees, but also the culture, behavior, and values that persist within the organization. Culture accounts for the behavior and differences within and among organizations. In fact, culture provides a lens through which the members interact, interpret, and make sense of reality. It is seen that corporate culture differs because interactions within the culture differ (Bochk.com, 2016). The theorist Stephen Littlejohn says that organizations must be studied independently for then it becomes difficult to generalize organizations. Stephen is more interested in the unique values that a company possesses rather than the reproducibility of representation. The Organizational Culture Theory is thus, a way to rethink communication and appreciate the vitality to connect with people and enhance the performance. Organizations possess a culture within themselves and have their rituals, beliefs, ideologies, and values. They are a collection of homogenous, uniform, and subcultures.

Published in the 1980s, Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organization describes eight metaphors in an organization. To understand the culture and behavior within an organization, Morgan stipulates ‘Imagination.' Morgan compares an organization to machines, organisms, political systems, psychic prisons, flux and transformation, instruments of domination, brains, and cultures. These metaphors would guide an organization to understand the problems that persist within the system. He aims at showing the significance of metaphor and how it helps humans to think critically (Morgan 2016).

In the metaphor of machine, Morgan compares an organization to a machine. It is the foundation of Taylorism. According to the American engineer Fredrick Taylor, the efficiency of work can be increased by dividing tasks into smaller parts. This can be achieved by shifting the responsibility of the manager. Scientific methods must be used to determine work efficiency. The best person must be selected to perform the work. Moreover, efficiency can be increased by proper training. The machine view of organization is typical bureaucracies and dominates the thinking process of modern management. People in some organizations must operate like a machine or a clock. They are imposed to abide by certain rules and repeat the same task mechanically. Organizations thus act like machines of which the employees are parts. In such organizations, employees are mere tools in the hands of the owner. Machine organizations borrow their task specialization, language, rank, equipment, training, uniforms and regulations from the military (Morgan 2016). In such organizations, commands move in the organization in a defined way. Bureaucracies work and act like machines in factories. The machine metaphor is characterized by a defined function, a repetitive and routine work fashion, predetermined set of work seeking efficient and rational means to reach immediate objectives and goals.

 The next metaphor is that of organisms where Morgan compares an organization with an organism. Organizations are born; they grow, develop, evolve, compete for survival, and die like organisms. Businesses work within an environment and are interdependent. However, organizations react more to feedback of environment than do machines. Moreover, like an organism, a body possesses the capability to adopt, adapt, and learn from its responsive environment. This view is a naturalistic and an appealing one and personifies organization. It further shows that Darwin's theory is applicable not only to organisms but for cultural norms and human constructs as a whole. While the machine metaphor is a dependent one, the organism metaphor is an independent one. The history of Chinese investment bank makes it a machine oriented company. The bank focuses mostly on profit. The bank needs to adapt itself to the environment (Örtenblad et al. 2016).

The brain metaphor emphasizes the importance of learning. The organization is compared to a brain and places information technology at the center of the organization. It reconciles with the Kaizen and Total Quality Management practices. According to the brain metaphor, the order and pattern are not imposed. They emerge from the process. Organizations are compared to brains as the working of an organization is as complex as a brain. Organizations work like decision-making, communication, and information systems. However, institutions can never be rational completely as they have incomplete information and can opt for only a limited number of options. They have a very limited scope. Organizational structures control decision-making through routinizing and fragmenting. As in organism metaphor, organizations are personified in the brain metaphor as they are considered living. In fact, organizations are holographs and hence can be compared to brain (Morgan 2016).

The psychic prison is dysfunctional stories and myths which control anxiety and fear. The psychological prison metaphor hinges on the perspectives that help to explore the unconscious processes which are trappings for people. It focuses on the rationality of organizations and focuses on power relations and ethics. It shows barriers, change, and innovation. But it ignores the ideologies which shape and control organizations. The psychic prison metaphor lays emphasis on the human trappings within an organization. It depicts constructions of perceived reality and modes of thinking. Individuals may get imprisoned, trapped, controlled, or confined within an organization. The metaphor of psychic prison mostly illustrates the way an organization can become trapped psychologically. The thinking process becomes one dimensional, restricted, loses creativity, and prohibits change. Moreover, it ceases the ability of the organization to progress. Organizations which have become a prey of psychic prison share common traits like group think, frequent conflicts, and native culture (Morgan 2016). 

It is seen that organizations have been instruments of social domination. People are dominated by custom, charisma, laws, rules, and regulations. The power is in the hands of the administrator and thus seeks the right to govern employees under his control. Organizations give more importance to profit over human health. They exploit people through authority and domination. Bureaucracies are the primary source of exploitation and domination. Impersonal principles are imposed upon people in a quest for efficiency. The domination and imposition are thus manifested through reason. Autocratic managers rule many organizations. Thus, every decision lay in their hands. The job is done in the way the manager wishes to. Managers are self-interested in such organizations and place their personal power, domination, and benefit over everything. When there is a conflict of interests, there rise clashes in the organization.

Organizations are viewed as societies as a whole and have their values, beliefs, customs, and rituals. Organizations have national, ethnic, and regional cultures which are synonymous with the culture of society. Such a culture is applied in an organization to impose clearly articulated and precise norms. Such patterns define culture and direct the behavior of the employees. The culture shapes an organization's character. It creates ethnocentricism and blindness by providing rules and codes of conduct that are considered standard. People moving away from the norms are deemed abnormal and not considered a part of the organizational society and culture (Weaver 2015).

The metaphor of flux and transformation shows that an organization is a part of the ebb and flow. It can change, self-organize, and self-review with the desire to create an identity of its own. The idea of ebb and flow was first reflected by Heraclitus. He states that the universe embodies both change and permanence and suffers constant flux. Complexity and chaos are an integral part of an organization and are interconnected with each other. Random disturbances are responsible for creating unpredictable relationships and events. However, may find coherent order emerging from the surface chaos and randomness (Morgan 2016).

It is thus well evident that organizational culture provides a cognitive framework and a sense of security and stability. It is important to internalize and change elements in an organization to achieve control culturally. Symbolization, realization, interpretation, and manifestation influence the culture primarily. The social behavior is enhanced through commitment and consciousness. The mannerism and work commitment must be one with the goals of the organization. It is seen that same structures perform different functions. These features evolve with time. Hence, organizations must self-organize and build redundancy like the brain. This can be achieved by adding specialized parts and services to the system. The organizations must strive to multi-task. This would allow flexibility and self-organizing ability. Gareth Morgan’s organizational metaphors are helpful in different situations (Morgan 2016). Every metaphor is not applicable in any situation. Metaphors matter more when organizations are cast as culture. Metaphors are beneficial for they help to understand the complexity within an organization, understand them in a simplistic way and providing solutions. Moreover, metaphors attract more attention to essential characteristics and elements. They are useful as they put clarity and order in circumstances that are dubious and vague. Most importantly, metaphor is an imaginative process and is applicable in the psychological world (Hill et al. 2014).

References

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Alvesson, M., 2012. Understanding organizational culture. Sage.

Bochk.com. (2016). About us | BOCHK. [online] Available at: http://www.bochk.com/en/aboutus.html [Accessed 15 Sep. 2016].

Bushe, G.R. and Marshak, R.J. eds., 2015. Dialogic organization development: The theory and practice of transformational change. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

DuBrin, A.J., 2013. Fundamentals of organizational behavior: An applied perspective. Elsevier.

Fink, G., Dauber, D. and Yolles, M., 2012. Understanding organisational culture as a trait theory. European Journal of International Management, 6(2), pp.199-220.

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Hill, C.W., Jones, G.R. and Schilling, M.A., 2014. Strategic management: theory: an integrated approach. Cengage Learning.

Hogan, S.J. and Coote, L.V., 2014. Organizational culture, innovation, and performance: A test of Schein's model. Journal of Business Research, 67(8), pp.1609-1621.

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Morgan, G., 2016. Commentary: Beyond Morgan’s eight metaphors. Human Relations, 69(4), pp.1029-1042.

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Nica, E., 2013. Organizational culture in the public sector. Economics, Management and Financial Markets, 8(2), p.179.

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Örtenblad, A., Trehan, K. and Putnam, L.L. eds., 2016. Applying Morgan’s Metaphors: Theory, Research, and Practice in Organizational Studies. SAGE Publications.

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Örtenblad, A., Trehan, K. and Putnam, L.L. eds., 2016. Applying Morgan’s Metaphors: Theory, Research, and Practice in Organizational Studies. SAGE Publications.

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