Organizational Theory Term Paper

Length: 2 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Business - Management Type: Term Paper Paper: #91032799 Related Topics: Organizational Design, Organizational Behavior, Decision Theory, Health Care Organization
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Metaphors for Organizations

One of the most common organizational metaphors is that of machines. This has been applied in many different contexts -- health care organizations (Suchman, 2011), the military (Demchak, 1991) and as an explanatory force for larger theories about the nature of organizations (Nassehi, 2005). The machine metaphor views the organization as converting inputs into outputs by way of specific systems and processes. The mechanical nature of this metaphor helps to place the organization in the context of the outputs and how the organization needs to arrive at those outputs. Every machine has a specific task. A complex machine may be a combination of many different machines -- think of how a computer works. There are many different features, and this is one of the aspects of this metaphor that is commonly applied to organizations as well. All elements of the organization are simply the systems and processes by which an...


The machine metaphor is valuable for managers, but not fully explanatory for the nature of the organization as a whole. For example, all machines have some sort of operator, who flicks the on switch and adjusts controls. The manager in the metaphor performs this function within the machine that is the organization. When applied to the military, where other humans are bound to follow orders unquestioningly, and where institutional knowledge is concentrated at the top with the operators, the machine metaphor is more apt, but in other organizations all humans should be considered an autonomous actors. The parts of a machine are not autonomous. They have no capacity for independent thought, and merely perform their functions as required. So the machine metaphor struggles to account for human behaviors, because humans do not behave as parts of a machine. Thinking of an organization as a machine therefore will result is challenges in its operation, because the operation of the organizational machine is going to be quite a bit different.

The organism metaphor is another popular one, where the organization is likened to a living organization. This is, in one sense, an improvement on the idea of the machine. An organic machine still has a number of internal systems that serve to convert inputs into outputs. One difference, however, as that the component parts of an organism are complex and perpetually-evolving. The human…

Sources Used in Documents:


Demchak, C. (1991). Military Organizations, Complex Machines. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY.

Nassehi, A. (2005). Organizations as decision machines: Niklas Luhmann's theory of organized social systems. The Sociological Review. Vol. 53 (s1) 178-191.

Suchman, A. (2011). Organizations as machines, organizations as conversations: Two core metaphors and their consequences. Medical Care. Vol. 49 (S1) S43-S48.

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