“An organization is the planned coordination of the activities of a number of people for the achievement of some common, explicit purpose or goal, through division of labour and function, and through a hierarchy of authority and responsibility” (Schein, 1994: 15).
Organisation theory is the study of individuals and human behaviour within organisations. Organisations organise what we do and controls a lot of what happens in our everyday life and how we interact with others during our encounters in a vast array of different but ordinary social contexts thus for this reason it is important to continue research in this field, as it will help grapple what sort of world we have created and what alternatives we may desire in the future. A key characteristic of organisation theory is that it based on a broad range of approaches which are competing which may or may not complement, contradict or inform one another. I am going to look at the three main paradigms which organisation theory is spilt between. The first paradigm, Modernist, determine how managers can foster effective cultures and improve performance and efficiency. The second Paradigm, Symbolic Interpretive, describe how interactions produce shared realities. Lastly, the Postmodern paradigm, criticise and destabilise managerial ideologies and expose power and relations. The first half of the essay will be focused on describing the main three paradigms in relation to organisation theory including the economic, social and political context as well as describing and analysing related organisations theories. The second half of my essay will be devoted to discussing whether they are complementary or competing paradigms and to what extent. In my opinion Postmodernism and symbolic interpretivist are more complementary than modernism. Modernism and Postmodern are more competing.
Modernist organisation theory celebrates the nature of modern organisation and also a critical exploration of the nature of organisation itself. Modernists organisation is a global theory and thus can be transmitted into any culture. Modernist theory is about the development of fair forms of organisation in terms of modern organisation having clear lines of authority, in hierarchal forms (in terms of dictators using this as a platform to exercise power) based on logic and reasoning. Taylor, a modern sociologist, came to the recognition that the workforce was largely insufficient due to functioning on the ‘rule of thumb’ and therefore, started experimenting and applied ‘scientific knowledge’ to the workforce. He wanted to replace the ‘hit and miss method’ and instead establish a cause and effect relationship which would allow the objective or cause to be met, leading to efficiency and increase in productivity. There are both ontological and epistemological foundations to Taylor’s theory. (Ontology is the study and science of humans whereas epistemology is based on knowledge especially in regard to methods). In terms of organisation, even today, many organisations are designed to follow a hierarchal system which leads on to placing emphasis on order and control.
Taylor’s theory has this foundation, as it includes the distinction between managers and employees as well as providing supervision. The epistemological foundation of the theory includes using scientific techniques to understand the ways in which we can make our organisations more strategic and systematic and to rely on empirical data to make rational decisions. The social structure concept is developed by Max Webber. It is called a systematic study of bureaucracy which refers by modern theorist for developing the division of labour, hierarchy of authority and corporate rules and procedures (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2009). From a modernist point of view, structure differentiates through characteristic for having flat or tall organization structure. Tall organization structure has division of labour by having many vertical hierarchy levels from top to bottom with fewer departments whereas flat organization structure has more divisions but less hierarchical level. Overall modernists researchers understand organisations to be objective real entities operating in a real world. When well designed and managed, they are systems of decision and action driven by norms of rationality, efficiency and effectiveness. The purpose of organisation theory is to find general laws and methods, and techniques of management and control. However, the perspective also recognises the increasing complexity of organisational settings, and the increased diversity of organisational form.
The Symbolic interpretive perspective of organisations is that they are consistently being constructed and reconstructed by members by means of interaction which is symbolically mediated. They are also cultural communities which are put together by human relations and personal meanings to individuals and organisations. The purpose of organisation theory, in relation to the symbolic interpretivist perspective, is to describe how people give meaning and order to their personal experience within certain circumstances, through their interpretive symbolic acts, forms and processes. Researchers in this area are committed to be true to the personal experience and to be open minded about explanations by other researchers. The findings of symbolic interpretivist are hard to replicate which is why modernist reject their findings as it cannot be replicated and be tested for reliability. Symbolic interpretive organisations believe that if employees or workers understand culture and the meaning behind the cultural, the verbal communications, as well as the nonverbal communications, symbols and objects it is then that workers will begin to understand themselves better (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006).
Symbolic interpretive perspective understands reality by what has been experienced by having first hand emotions and feelings experienced by one themselves. This knowledge can enable organisation to engage more effectively with diverse cultures within an external to organisations (Lundberg 2008).
Symbolic interpretivist also includes social construction, where by the believe that the social world is negotiated, organised and also constructed by humans’ interpretation of objects and words. They also believe that it is this socially constructed reality which maintains social order however what we deem to be ‘reality’ is created through our shared interpretations which can be communicated through symbols and examples of international ‘norms’.