Part 1: Organizational and Management Theory
Organizations are guided by specific principles that have the power to either make or break them. Although, these principles may vary from organization to organization, certain principles must remain the same in order for true success to occur in the current organizational climate. This is regardless of sector of operation or focus in field. When looking at successful companies such as Google, Amazon, or SAS for example. They put an emphasis on valuing employees, management effectiveness, and overall culture in every facet of their respective organizations. This has become a new trend in organizations with an extra focus on these principles within company’s human resource departments.
Companies have now realized the importance in culture to retain employees for the long term. It has become a conscious aspect of organizational thinking in controlling the movement of employee’s in and out of their companies (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). Organizations now understand that toxic management and leadership hurts the bottom line. It is more cost effective to retain and develop then to have high turnover. This new wave of thinking has led to better work benefits and environments for employees nationwide (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013).
Effective leaders empower and grow organizations through the following principles – 1) investing in employees through wellness, 2) creating career paths for employees, 3) clear and defined organization structures in regards to leadership, 4) empowering personalities to develop top talent, 5) develop a culture of accountability, 6) focus on what they can control within their sphere of influence, 7) judge success internally instead of externally, 8) think outside the box, 9) recognize strengths and the need not to change everything, 10) align strategy with organization goals. All leaders that are successful in the long-term leverage these personnel principles with fellow collogues that create a more humanistic approach to a working relationship (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). This idea is based in a philosophy that defines leaders as peers not in a boss verse worker like relationship.
Ten Principles of Effective Management and Organizations
Leaders and organizations have found that investing in employee wellness leads to less turnover and higher productivity (Armstrong, 2016). SAS, a data analytics company is known for this largely in the corporate sector. Leadership within SAS decided at the company’s inception to take care of employees in order to maintain top talent and reduce turnover. At SAS, you will find on-site daycare, primary care physician services, a pharmacy, and a gym just to name a few perks. Within their organization they made a conscious decision to become a leader in employee wellness which is the first principle in effective management and leadership.
In recent years, management throughout quality and growing organizations has grown adept at structuring career paths for employees. Career paths being the idea of creating a system of reasonable progression for employees to earn higher levels of responsibility and wages (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). The understanding of employee growth and development is no longer taking a back seat. Human resource departments and managers understand that if they don’t develop from within, employees will take their talents to competitors. Effective managers counsel and develop career paths constantly to ensure employees grow and view themselves as valued within an organization. This is the principle of growth and retainment as known in human resources.
Having a clear and defined leadership structure is a mark of an effective leader and organization setting and expanding boundaries. Some insinuate this to mean isolating power at the top. This is actually not the case, in fact it’s the art of systematic delegation (Armstrong, 2016). This process allows for multiple people to be involved in the decision-making process therefor developing them into future leaders themselves. The idea behind this process allows for individuals involved to have ownership and move around to work on different parts of the scope of each project. Afterwards leaving employees to feel empowered and confident in their abilities to complete tasks.
A hard task of any leader or organization is managing personalities within groups to accomplish a goal (Armstrong, 2016). Rarely are tasks individual in today’s organizations, individuals must be able to thrive in groups to accomplish tasks. Effective leaders will exploit personality traits of individuals and put them in a place where they can best succeed (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). First and foremost, this is done for the project worked on, but also to tie into each employee’s career path. Management of personality traits can be one of the hardest parts of leadership and requires constant monitoring and adjustment. This effective principal if managed well can develop senior leaders quickly.
Creating a culture of accountability within a work place can be one of the hardest tasks of any leader or organization. This is in part due to the often-negative consequences that can come from how some organizations enforce accountability (Armstrong, 2016). Effective leaders create an environment where employees are free to make mistakes, but hold themselves accountable more than managers. The action of reprimand for mistakes is often overused and hinders the growth process when developing employees (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). If done right having a strong culture of accountability leads to trust amongst employees and mutual respect.
Accepting individual limitations is often a tough task to do as a leader. Effective leaders understand that they have a limited sphere of influence no matter how high they are in an organization. Ultimately individuals have to be motivated through self-motivation to do a good job. What’s important is setting the environment where results and positive motivation can thrive. Understanding where to direct your influence is one of the least valued traits of an effective leader and manager.
Organizations are judged on the success of their operations whether reasonable or not. Often leaders and organizations make the mistake of judging that success externally instead of internally (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). Sometimes this is due to outside influence, but often it comes from internal pressure from the leader themselves. Effective leaders are able to tune out outside influence on their organization and focus on the internal structure to make it the most productive. This is not to say they don’t pay attention to the competitors around them, but they create their own thriving model instead of copying. One example of this is Amazon which entered the mass market Walmart created, but slowly reinvented it while instituting their own organizational policies benefiting employees.
Effective leaders are able to see the big picture when developing goals for their teams and organizations. In order to be effective, you have to be able to think outside the box while staying in the parameters of your organizational goals (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). This can be as large as designing new programs and methods to simply shoring up a deficiency. Great leaders will find the little things as well as the big things to target improvement. This is the mentality of efficiency which contributes to fast growing organizations.
Every organization has strengths and weaknesses they must recognize (Armstrong, 2016). Recognizing those strengths and weaknesses is key to every effective leader within those respective organizations. Also, not feeling the need to change things unnecessarily is key to any successful leader. Leaders who create effective change do so through constant evaluation and looking to improve processes instead of getting rid of processes. Being able to control the urge to simply rid yourself of a process, but embrace the process of changing it separates an average leader from the best.
Understanding your organizations goals and positioning your employees to most effectively meet those goals is essential to being an effective leader. It’s pivotal to align department or project strategy with the organizations strategy. Having one vision gives employees something to buy into and a vision to aim towards (Gross, M., Hogler, R., Henle, C., 2013). Effective leaders use this principle to ensure everyone is on the same page and requires less micromanaging. Setting these large goals and small goals to look towards creates realistic benchmarks as well which help as indicators of continued success.
The following ten principals of effective leaders and organizations are simply the foundation of what an effective leader in this space should be. With a renewed focus on human capital in organizations in the world, principles such as these lead to more fruitful projects and longer lasting professional relationships. Reducing confusion and creating more productive environments. Therefor creating more sustainable organizations.
Part 2: Organizational Theory in Relation to Organizations as Machines & Organizations as Cultures
When examining Morgan’s writing in Images of Organization, I was compelled and kept drawing comparisons to my current organization. Currently, I am the Director of Special Projects for the North Carolina Education and Employment Center. This is a center focused on employment and education services for transitioning service members, veterans, and their dependents within the state of North Carolina. Chapter two and chapter five correlate well to my organization as it is both governmental and tied to an ethos with many different cultures combining into one. Morgan states “that all theories of organization and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that lead us to see, understand, and manage organizations in distinctive yet partial ways”. In my various professional position’s, I’ve yet to find one more rooted in a machine-like environment in the way it operates with such impact on a vast centered organizational culture.
Mechanical Theory – Organizations as Machines
In chapter two Morgan covers the image of organizations being machines. Especially bureaucratic organizations where he speaks of how this mentality at times can be highly effective; at others though, it can be a hindrance to growth and development (Morgan, 2006). Morgan speaks of how this mechanical level of thinking is so engrained in organizations today that it can be hard for managers to grow and expand in different types of ways (Morgan, 2006). Throughout the chapter, multiple points are made out that these types of organizations tend to create routines and mechanize all their work production whether office based or not. Creating measurables that make evaluation easier and a structure that is very defined.
Within my organization, the North Carolina Education and Employment center (EEC). We operate very much in this fashion; not exactly by my choice or even other directors. This is not a reflection of it being a good or bad practice, but just recognizing that the process is mechanical as Morgan describes. The theory describes organizations with multiple checks and balances, as well as defined sectors of evaluations which screams government bureaucracy. I believe I can make a point for both reasons why this process can be considered good and bad.
If I was taking the pro-mechanical train of thought approach, I would say this process leads to easier processes to identify and solve problems. The approach isolates managers, workers, and projects. It sets team expectations that are easily measurable and lead to straight forward individual and team based evaluations (Morgan, 2006). This sort of process contributes to better precision, speed, clarity, and efficiency (Morgan, 2006). All of which are needed for a governmental organization in some ways to work effectively.
The cons to the mechanical approach are also evident as well. Morgan often references the potential to routinize and mechanize human life leads to the eroding of the human spirit and creative thought (Morgan, 2006). This process hurts personal interaction amongst employees and can affect the esprit de corps government organizations attempt to foster. In other mechanical organizations, such as production or logistics companies. This process becomes not as big of an issue because the value on human capital is not viewed the same. The goal of mechanical organizations is to make humans fit the requirements of the mechanical scheme of organizations (Morgan, 2006). Limiting expression that leads to increased innovation some would say.
Within my current organization, we suffer from both the pro’s and con’s that come from mechanization (machine) theory. The structure that envelops our organization contributes to segmented responsibility which helps defines each employee’s role. This allows us to best help the people we are assigned to help in the most efficient way. It also handicaps our expansion though, especially in regards to helping more people in a more expansive and effective way. An example of this would be our hiring events where since we are tasked with having ten a year, it doesn’t allow us to market and promote these events as effective as we would like. This could be easily changed by going from ten to seven events per year, but due to bureaucratic policies it hinders us from making that change.
The EEC provides a team based approach which is positive due to group project based work being so vital to our mission. The negatives with this approach is it limits individuals feeling empowered enough to making their own decisions that can create change. As an organization, we have lost out on several professional contacts due to this practice only being carried out at the director level. Although, team approaches in a government organization can be good they can also hinder development for the organization. This mechanical nature of authority slows progress as much as it enhances effectiveness.
After reading about mechanical theory, I would say the EEC is pretty neutral in regards to whether it benefits or not from this level of thinking. In some ways it’s costly, but in others it allows for organization within many moving pieces. It’s easy to say bureaucracy contributes to dysfunction and that is true. We must also recognize though that within an organization like the EEC the checks and balances need to be greater because of who we represent. Overall, I see Morgan’s insight as a way to best constantly evaluate what you are doing as a mechanical organization. Embrace the good and rid the negative portions that adversely affect day to day business.
Social Realty – Organizations as Cultures
In chapter five Morgan explores the idea of corporate cultures and the importance of culture to organizational success. Through focusing on the values, ideas, beliefs, norms, rituals, and other patterns you dictate the culture of organizational life (Morgan, 2006). In designing organizations as cultures, it provides another way of managing and designing organizations (Morgan, 2006). This provides for a certain control of quality and expectations from within all facets of each respective organization.
The focus on organizations as cultures started in Japan in the mid-1960’s (Morgan, 2006). After a demise in production due to World War Two, Japan then re-invented themselves into a country where work and life commixed in a positive way. This idea caught the attention of the world in the 1980’s (Morgan, 2006). When we talk about work culture, we are talking about a societies system of knowledge being shown in the work place. It’s an acceptance of ideas and values as a day to day ritual (Morgan, 2006).
Throughout reading the chapter, I found it fascinating the connection between culture and symbiotic relationships. Morgan talks about intensive teamwork and collaboration being a necessity for this environment to work (Morgan, 2006). At the EEC, I believe we do this well. Each of us is connected to a similar mission in one way or another and understands the consequences of not completing each person’s individual tasks in the mission. No matter our culture of origin or background, we are all connected by the passion to help veterans. For some this comes from serving the country themselves and for others it’s simply a connection they have.
For me, I see very few negatives to an organization focused on culture. In my young professional life, I’ve been a part of several organizations and all the good organizations had a strong culturally foundation. Understanding that individuals can have different personalities while still having much in common has been the glue to the success I’ve seen. Morgan points to this as corporate culture (Morgan, 2006). Culture based organizations in my opinion run smoother day to day. I’ve also seen limited turnover as workers get attached to their collogues and organizations long term missions. These cultures integrate individuals better in the long term and create shared meanings. This harmony and teamwork is a great foundation for success.
The EEC is a perfect example of an organization centering around culture. Although, if you point to culture as being a factor to be more inclusive you must also make sure it doesn’t exclude individuals. Creating and controlling sub-cultures in this organization is essential. Whether that means different branches of service, service members to spouses, etc. All must see the big picture as to not create a divide. The good thing is that within the military that has proven to be easier than other organizations I’ve been in. Where common life subjects such as politics, hobbies, and other items can cause rifts that go into the organization and cause trouble.
Management and organizations thrive off people first and foremost. As long as human beings are the main producers this will continue to be the case. The research proves that without putting individuals in an environment to succeed you will have limited return. Whether that is using my organization as an example or the various used by the authors you see this as a concept that can be applied worldwide. It’s important for us to value human capital if we truly care about creating thriving management and organizational cultures. That is the true theory of success.
Armstrong, M. (2016). Armstrong’s handbook of management and leadership for HR: Developing effective people skills for better leadership and management (Fourth ed.).
Gross, M., Hogler, R., & Henle, C. (2013). Process, people, and conflict management in organizations. International Journal of Conflict Management, 24(1), 90-103.
Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.