【小論文】組織管理理論(Perspectives on organizational theory)






Perspectives on organizational theory

In this day and age, it is generally recognized that we cannot live outside different kinds of organizations. From families to communities or different kinds of companies, we live in a society full of all kinds of organizations. As a result, being aware to diverse organization theories could help one being more efficient and effective in any organization. According to Organizational theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives,(Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006a) there are three main categories of argument in relation of organization theory: modernism, symbolic-interpretivism, post modernism. Each perspective has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this assignment, I will follow this framework to analyze and discuss the key opinions of them.


Stemmed from the age of reason, the modernist perspective focuses on the organization as an independent objective entity and takes a positivist approach to generating knowledge. Modernist organization theorists pay attention to how to advance efficiency, effectiveness and other objective indicators of performance through the application of theories relating to structure and control. Three theories built much of the foundation of modernist organization theory today: general systems theory, socio-technical systems theory and contingency theory.

General systems approach aims to develop interdisciplinary foundations and put emphasis to system thinking, which means to understand a system is constructed by many mutual interrelated subsystems. It declares that if we want to realize a system, we must be willing to go beyond the view of the individual parts to meet the entire system at its own level of complication. (Bertalanffy, 1968)Personally, I agree with this point of view. Since an organization is just like a system, this theory reminds us to take a comprehensive horizon when we analyze or work in an organization.

Social-technical systems theory concentrates on complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. Being proposed by the researchers of Tavistock Institute, this theory asserted that autonomous workgroup can help the organizations enjoy more productivity and morale. Contrary to scientific management, the theory provides different attention to team work, multi-skilling and self-management.(Trist & Bamforth, 1951)When we take this viewpoint into consideration, just like nowadays many teachers would like to divide students into several groups to accomplish a task, I trust that group-work can really contribute to better working atmosphere and outcome. However, when an organization executed in this way, some principles of scientific management like clear objective and division of profession should still be taken into consideration. Anyway, every organization has its own object and each group in the organization should never forget that.

Unlike the former two theories, contingency theory argues that there is no best way to organize a corporation. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent upon the internal and external situation. (Donaldson, 1985)As far as I am concerned, I think this view has considerable merit. Because each organization has its culture and problem, just like different students should be taught with different methods, there are different key contingencies need to be indentified and special best fit need to be determined between them.


Challenging the objective science of modernism, the symbolic-interpretive perspective focuses on the organization as a community sustained by human relationships and uses a mainly subjectivist ontology and an interpretive epistemology. Treating organizations as webs of meanings that are jointly created and communicated, Symbolic-interpretivism has several different important influences.

Firstly, Social construction theory proposed that our social world is constructed by our interpretations of what is happening around us. Socially constructed reality consists of subcultures each with their own socio-cultural context that is internalized by its members.(Berger & Luckmann, 1966) Thus, when we try to understand or manage an organization, this theory clearly indicates that appreciating the subcultures in the organization could play a pivotal role to help the organization work well.

Besides, sensemaking theory contends that organizations exist largely in the minds of organization members in the figure of cognitive maps. Through the process called reification, which means people discussing and mapping about organizations, we made them real.(Weick, 1995) Based on this, when people act on this understanding later, the process is called enactment.(Weick, 1979) Just like sometimes the stock prices are affected by the rumors, this theory denotes the importance of the image of the organization built by people. As a result, managers of an organization should try to convey their directions and the image of the organization clearly. Otherwise, some wild guesses or unproved rumors may destroy an organization.

Post modernism

Postmodernists trust that everything people know is relative to the moment of our experience, which means that there is no objectively definable social reality. Based on this, there are several important influences sparked by post modernism.

To begin with, the term Progress Myth, which also be called dogma, refers to the unreflective belief that scientific and technological advance is universally desirable. However, the thought of progress could be an unreflexive belief. Take colonialism for example, even though some colonialists assert that it would be good for the backward countries to be colonized, the people who live in the undeveloped countries may not agree with that. To a certain degree, that is one of the reasons why colonialism does not prevail in the contemporary age. Anyway, sometimes the process of progress may be an excuse of the authority who desires to expand its power unlimitedly and it may not be in the best interests of other people.

Similarly, Lyotard criticized the grand narratives of the Progress Myth as intellectually and politically totalitarian. Since knowledge and society are closely linked and institutions may use the power to eliminate different voices, giving voice to different ideas and views would be the antidote to totalitarianism.(Lyotard, 1984) Although this may probably produce another privilege to replace the former privilege, by means of respecting multiple views could escape this risk. To be more specific, just like more and more countries has legislated to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, I think that giving voice to minorities could really contribute to keep an organization safe and stable.

To conclude, the modernist tries to explain a segment of reality while the symbolic-interpretivist focuses on describing it and the postmodernist pays attention to criticize or create it.(Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006b) Even though each theory has its own limit and may not be suitable to all the conditions (just like what the contingency theory asserted), it appears that absorbing these theories thoroughly could not only broaden our horizon but also help us to regulate organizations more successfully.


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Bertalanffy, L. V. (1968). General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications

(Revised edition ed.). New York: George Braziller Inc.

Donaldson, L. (1985). In defence of organisation theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L. (2006a). A brief history of organizational theory. Organizational theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives (2 edition ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L. (2006b). What is organazation theory? Organizational theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives (2 ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lyotard, J. F. o. (1984). Postmodern condition: a report on knowledge (12.99. ed.): Manchester U.P.

Trist, E. L., & Bamforth, K. W. (1951). Some social and psychological consequences of the long wall method of coal getting. Human Relations, 4, 3-38.

Weick, K. E. (1979). The social psychology of organizing (2nd ed. ed.). London: McGraw-Hill.

Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, Calif. ;

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