Re: Organisational thinking LO3834

Dr. Ivan Blanco (BLANCO@BU4090.BARRY.EDU)
Fri, 24 Nov 1995 10:56:01 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO3518 --

> Date: 15 Nov 95 17:33:32 EST
> From: Jan Lelie <>
> Dear Ivan,
> Adding to the discusion on whether organizations think or not (they are,
> therefore they think) you wrote:
> " I think that "exploring the mentall model that organizations are
> living organisms" may help us understand the feelings created by large
> layoffs, for instance. In this case, the organization can learn to cope
> with the separation of many of the members. We may even learn to find
> alternatives to layoffs!
> I have experienced big losses in organizations. For instance,
> getting a member killed. Then we realize how an organization "feels," and
> how it finds ways to cope with those losses. .... . "
> Could you please tell me how this mental model helps? I only hear you say that
> people (underscore) think, feel, love, share, work, kill, help and cope, not
> always in that order, to which I agree. In my experience people tend to consider
> organisations as "mechanical", "without feeling or consideration".

It is true that people consider organizations as "machanical" and
"without feeling or consideration." Sometimes we say these things without
really stopping and really thinking carefully about this. Is it true that
organizations are "machanical" or is it some of the people in the
organizations who lose their humanness? The way I see it, organizations
are people. If it appears to be mechanical it is the majority of the
people inside it that act mechanically. Of course, we all know that they
act this way as a result of the system under which they exits. But
systems are developed by people, enforced by them, and modified by them!

When there is great pain, as in a big layoff, there is also a
feeling of insecurity that many of those who stay have. As they start to
share this feelings in any way, they may develop new perceptions and see
the organization differently. They may even react by being more
conservative, taking less risks, laying low, etc., which might have have a
bad effect on overall performance. When the great pain comes from big
losses, such as the death a several members at once (e.g., 40 members of
the Caracas, Venezuela, Fire Department died in December 1982), new myths
develop, new fomrs of cohesiveness also came up, and even some "outside"
rituals are used.

For instance, the closest members to those who died and some who
were not so close, developed the ritual of throwing over their shoulders
some drops of rum or scoth that they were about to drink after work. They
would even do this at their own houses when getting together for drinks
with some colleagues. There were also more stories told about some of the
members in the group that died.

There are other organizations who would react in different ways to
these events. Even when people are considering the organization too
mechanical, they are engageging in the development of these expressions
which I see as organizational expressions. By the way, these expressions
could also become part of the soccialization process of new members,
becuase they are incorporated in the official and social rituals of the

> Now here in
> Holland people with jobs in organisation start to act as "in group", demanding
> pay-rises in stead of investements for more jobs for the job-less "out group".
> Etcetera. All these things are things people do, in an organized way. Isn't it
> rather paternalistic that organisations "think" and "care".?

Again, the way I see it is not that the organization care or
think. It is always people who do that. It could be a very small group
that care (as in a medium size, family owned business), that we can see as
"paternalistic;" or it could be a large organization with a number of
committees and outside consultants studying the workers' situation. In
either case it is always people. I participated, really coordinated, a 10
percent cut in that Fire Dept. payroll, and I can tell you that it was a
very painful process for all of us. We were a team of about eight, and we
had to do it by hand. We went through case by case, and then had to tell
personally the bad news to each person! It might be a lot easier in a
huge corporation when it is the computer that issues the checks, prints
the letters, and mails them to those employees affected. This takes the
personal contact with pain away from those making the decision, but there
is still paying felt by those staying behind.

> I've been strongly influenced by Max DePree's "Leadership Is An Art", (it has
> been posted to the Reading List, although it took some time). Thanks to your
> comment I started to browse again and I would like to quote from page 9:
> "(to understand corporate life) ... it is fundamental that leaders endorse a
> concept of persons. This begins with an understanding of the diversity of
> people's gifts and talents and skills."
> Perhaps there lies the key to my objection to the concept of thinking
> organisations.
> Jan Lelie

I agree wholeheartedly with the quote. We must learn to
recognize, treat, relate, appreciate, etc., people as whole human beings,
not just as the hands that do the job!


  R. IVAN BLANCO, Ph.D.                        Voice 305 899-3515
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