Various Ways to Look at Organizations (Metaphors)

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Probably everyone in the workplace has their own conception of what "organization" means. As with most highly complex terms, everyone is right and everyone is wrong.

The concept of organizational culture is much like an organizational "personality". Organizations, like people, have life cycles.

Many people view organizational learning much like we view organisms to be learning. Organizations can accumulate and manage knowledge as well. There are a variety of books that describe other traits of organizations much like traits of people, e.g., depressed organizations, addictive organizations, etc.

One of the most common ways to look at organizations is as organizational systems. (This is the view that was used in this library when describing the concept of an organization.) This view is becoming common among professionals who study, teach and write about organizations. Practitioners who work with organizational management to improve organizations also tend to view organizations as systems. Note that machines, organisms, persons, groups, families, family dynasties are all systems, too.

Two people can be looking at the very same organization, but have completely different perspectives and language about the same organization. Unless you know the various ways to view organizations, you'll miss all the perspectives -- you'll miss the more accurate truth about the organization you're studying. You'll only see "one view of the elephant -- you'll grab the elephant's trunk and think it's a snake."
Organizational Lens -- How Different People Can View the Same Organization Very Differently


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