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"Discuss the usefulness and limitations of employing metaphors as a means of analysing organisations. Illustrate from organisations with which you are familiar"

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"DISCUSS THE USEFULNESS AND LIMITATIONS OF EMPLOYING METAPHORS AS A MEANS OF ANALYSING ORGANISATIONS. ILLUSTRATE FROM ORGANISATIONS WITH WHICH YOU ARE FAMILIAR" Name: Sarah-lee Thompson Student Number: 13102102 Module title: Organisation and Management - 1st assignment Module code: PUP520J1 Programme: LLB Law and Government - Full time, Yr 3 Date: 15th November 2004 Word Count: 1,770 "I declare that this assignment is all my own work and has not been submitted for any other purpose or course" Signed: Date: "Discuss the usefulness and limitations of employing metaphors as a means of analysing organisations. Illustrate from organisations with which you are familiar" Organisations are complex and inconsistent. They are constantly changing, whether it is through its aims, team members, roles or the level of output. This means that the decisions and approach taken by management can be very difficult. Many people will have their own notion of what organisation means and as with most complex terms there is no perfect definition or theory. Many theorists of organisation and management believe that all theories in this area are "based on images or metaphors that lead us to see, understand and manage organisations in distinctive yet partial ways."1 Garth Morgan is a major theorist in this area and a pioneer in the use of metaphor to read, analyse and facilitate organisations to change.2 However although metaphors may be useful in analysing organisations and in turn provide an understanding that helps in their management, there are also limitations. ...read more.


By considering these terms we can see how these metaphors are applied to organisations. * Machines - efficiency, maintenance, clockwork, production, control, inputs and outputs, programmes, standardisation * Organisms - living systems, environmental conditions, adaptation, life cycles, needs, evolution, survival of the fittest * Brains - learning, mindsets, intelligence, feedback, knowledge, networks, parallel information processing * Cultures - society, values, beliefs, laws, ideology, diversity, traditions, history, shared vision and mission, qualities, service * Political Systems - interests and rights, power, hidden agendas, authority, alliances, censorship, leaders, conflict * Psychic Prisons - conscious and unconscious processes, ego, denial, projection, pain and pleasure principle, workaholics * Flux and Transformation - constant change, flow, self-organisation, chaos, complexity, butterfly effect, paradox * Instruments of Domination - alienation, imposing values, charisma, force, exploitation, divide and rule, corporate interest. The most common of the metaphors of organisation theory is the machine metaphor. In the way a machine might be built to accomplish certain tasks, so might an organisation. This metaphor arose in the 1800's when many machines where being invented trough the Industrial Revolution and it later become part of Classical management theory trough its relation to structure and efficiently. The metaphor sees the image of the organisation as 'a machine designed and constructed by management to achieve predefined goals.'6 The image of the type of manager in this organisation is that of 'an engineer, who designs, builds and operates the organisational machine.'7 If we consider organisations in today's business world it is clear that many apply this metaphor in their approach to the management and organisation of their business. ...read more.


They identify similarities between non-identical things and this therefore leads to ignoring sometimes important differences. This is an important point to bear in mind as it demonstrates that the root metaphors of organisation theory create 'blind spots in perception and reasoning' which can lead to significant consequences. The metaphors of organisation theory have been, or can be taken to extremes but by acknowledging the limitations of these metaphors we can avoid getting carried away. If used correctly metaphors can be applied to organisation change, identify problems and resolve conflict and can assist in the reshaping of teams or products but they are narrow, biased views and 'it is impossible to develop new styles of organisation and management while continuing to think in old ways.'10 People within organisations can describe and create their own metaphors that best fit that organisation or can be adapted to best fit a team. As Morgan states, the challenge for the manager is to become skilled in using metaphor and in turn find the suitable way of seeing and understanding for a particular situation.11 This is an important skill that is needed and, as everyone around us is using metaphor in all aspects of life, the ability to do this will have far-reaching effects. By taking into consideration the limitations that the metaphors of organisation have we can see that no single metaphor or theory is sufficient enough to base an understanding of organisations. However each gives some understanding and therefore enhances the theorising skills needed in the theory and practice of organisation and management. ...read more.

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