AReflective Journal on Hatch and Cunliffe’s Organization Theory-Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives
Readingorganization theories discussed in Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) Iunderstood that culture as an issue is a hot topic within theorganization studies. Prior to reading their text, I had theassumption that all the organization theories can work well in allcultural contexts. I became enlighten after reading the book by Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) that some organization theories better fitcertain cultural contexts but not others. In particular, I learnedthat some organization theories fit well and find the best place inone cultural cluster than in others. Also, revealed was thatorganization theories identified in Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) namelydeconstruction theory, institutional theory, and contingency theorycategorized as modern, symbolic or postmodern are useful frames ofreferences for understanding organizations and behavior patternswithin them. These theories offer a perspective for defining myknowledge of organizations and helped me broaden my intellectualreach. Although, I had not used the theories to analyze the behaviorpatterns of organizations, reading the book by Hatch and Cunliffe(2013), I could relate how managers increase efficiency in anorganization by predicting, influencing and controllingorganizational behavior. I understood how to analyze organizationsafter reading part II in Hatch and Cunliffe (2013). Again as apracticing manager and leader, I understood why my knowledge andunderstanding of my organization may help me understand principles oforganization elements and how they interrelate with each other(Hatch, & Cunliffe, 2013). Previously, I could not understandwhy I had always had low chances of succeeding in my various businesspractices. It became apparent following my reading of chapter one inHatch and Cunliffe (2013) that to improve my chances of succeeding invarious business practices including information technology, finance,human resource and operations, sale and strategy I must embraceorganization theories. The reflective relationship between theenvironment and the organization is well captured in theenvironmental contingency theory that is explained in detail in Hatchand Cunliffe (2013). In this theory, Hatch and Cutliffe (2013)advises leaders and manager to change managerial systems and internalstructures with a view to ensuring that their organizations respondeffectively to environmental uncertainty. This theory captures thepower distance and uncertainty dimensions addressed elsewhere fromthe cultural perspective. Hatch and Cunliffe(2013) argue that powercan be re-distributed and make it possible for the environment tobecome realignment. After reading chapter 2 in Hatchand Cunliffe(2013) I could not agree more that internationaland global conditions have a profound effect on the performance of anorganization. Hatch and Cunliffecall this theorganization`s environment.Perceptionsof environmental uncertainty are often a function of mechanistic andorganic dimensions of the environment of organizations.
Importantly,I learned about the two forms of organization illustrated in thetheory of environmental contingency: organic and mechanistic. Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) presented two organization forms that illustratethe theory of environmental contingency: organic and mechanistic.According to Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) the latter performs routineactivities and is best suited for stable environments. Under stableenvironments, an organization functions like a machine with efficientand structured processes. However, organic form of organization isadaptive to change. It is structurally flexible. It works best inunstable environment. The organic form of organization thrives wellin societal culture of low power distance and uncertainty avoidance.On the other hand, that societal culture associated with high powerdistance and uncertainty avoidance may be appropriately fit themechanistic form (Hatch & Cubliffe, 2013). Hatch and Cunlife(2013) suggests that people within the Confucian Asian culture preferthe mechanistic form governed and structured by regulations andpolicies. People follow what they are asked to do. They respect thosein the hierarchical authority. Such organizations have routinizedbusiness practices. Preference is given to management with low risk(Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). For instance, unlike sales people inorganizations in the U.S., those in organizations within theConfucian Asia culture like Japan are given lower commissions andhigher base pay. When it comes to the executing innovative projects,people of Confucian Asian culture have the tendency to resist changeby enacting organizational norms and rules. On the contrary,individuals in the organizations of low power distance and lowuncertainty notably Nordic and Anglo Europe resist standardizationand formalization and dislike rule. They use their discretion andprefer autonomy. They are more tolerant to ambiguity and embracechange, which fits the organic organizational type (Hatch &Cunliffe, 2013). Unlike the individuals of Confucian Asia culture,individuals in the Nordic Europe and Anglo (i.e., the culture of lowpower distance and uncertainty avoidance) tend to see unexpectedsituations as the best opportunity for them to learn. Perhaps thatmay explain why Nordic countries are known for action learning andaction research. For such cultures, knowledge and information areacquired via mutual learning process with employees expecting bossesto consult them and viewing bosses as their equals (Hatch &Cunliffe, 2013).
Otherthan organization form, the environmental contingency theoryaddresses information uncertainty. In view of information theory ofuncertainty, members of Nordic and Anglo Europe cultures and are lesslikely to perceive uncertainty than member from Confucian Asiancultures. Again when it comes to the changing environment,individuals belonging to Confucian Asia culture may feel comfortablewhen the information they need is available and known in the rate ofchange and manageable amount. They may also want to manage thesituation (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). These embers prepare detailedplans and predict risks. For instance, a Japanese employee may wantto ensure he perfectly understand the manager’s expectations andwork expectations and therefore, pose as many questions to themanager as possible.
ReadingHatch and Cunliffe (2013), I realized that whenever ways of managinginformation or forms or organization are employed it is important fororganizations to change with the environment. I also noted that inhandling different elements and conditions that the environmentdemands, Confucian Asian may encounter more challenges than Nordicand Anglo Europe in particular restructuring internal systems viadifferentiation and integration as noted in Hatch and Cunliffe(2013). Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) acknowledge that egalitarianleadership can be possible under low power distance and thatauthority or power may be redistributed making it possible for theenvironment to be realigned.
Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) argue that besides raw materials and otherimportant resources, there are other elements notably social elementsthat play a role in studying and understandingorganization-environment relations. Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) believethat institutional theory recognizes social legitimacy ascontributing to organizational transformation process andorganizational development. In view of Hatch and Cunliffe (2013)institutional theory deals with two issues institutional change andisomorphism. From this perspective, organizations are thought toconform to institutionalized processes and institutionalized beliefsdue to the pressure from the environment. They are also thought tochange whenever there is need for change. From the culturalperspective, collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance andperformance orientation are the most relevant and importantdimensions.
Myperspectives on the environment may initially have been as basic asthose of modernists who viewed it as external to the organization. Inow appreciate the complex network in the organizational environmentand relate to how different organizations define their environments.Organizations are increasingly “thinking global” in terms ofstrategy and “acting local”. It became evident having read thebook by Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) that internationaland global conditions have a profound effect on the performance of anorganization. Hatch and Cunliffe call this the organization`senvironment. Inthe postmodern world, organizations do not only have to plan for oragainst their completion but against global issues such as politics,terrorism, climate change and economic cycles.
Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) emphasized the important role played by socialsetting in an organization. I identified the issues relating tosocial settings including ascentralization, formalization,integration, differentiation and standardization that Hatch andCunliffe (2013) believe may impact on the organization. I understoodthe role of people in insuring the organization become effective inits operations. This is well articulated by Hatch and Cunliffe (2013)who emphasize that efficiency can only be achieved by assigningindividuals to small departments including human resource, grantsmanagement office, planning and finance. Hatch and Cunliffe (2013)assert that human beings no longer leave in egalitarian societies buthave to specialize in a division of labor. Indeed, specialization hasbeen found to yield more returns according to Weber. Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) have advanced the argument that social contractsinstitutionalize with organizations and end up either mechanistic ororganic. Organizationsthat are mechanistic are characterized by high complexity,formalization, centralization and slow adaptation to change. On theother hand, organic organizations are flexible and are able to adaptaccordingly. Communication is horizontal, mutual respect isemphasized as everyone is an expert in their own field.
Thedifferent policies documents designed by organizations are used toguide the relation of people within the organization are now part ofthe accepted culture of organizations. These documents may includesexual harassment policy, HIV/AIDs policy, and leave police. Theseinterventions are meant to bring order, routine and rationalitywithin an organization. I am sure most people who care havetechnology to thank for our existence if modernists theoryon environmental contingency theory is anything to go by. Just ashuman beings have used technology to overcome the Malthusianapocalypse, successful companies must leverage on the best andrelevant technology to thrive in the market. It is my opinion thatwhat may distinguish different classes in society going forward maybe the level of access to technology. However, Perrows cited in Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) has valuable lessons on why some good technologyends up not being useful to organizations. He attributes thechallenges on level of complexity of the project and says that morecomplex technology however good may not be adopted by companies forfear of uncertainty. This according to me may be a bigger problemespecially in organizations that may have older managers who may havethe power to decide on what technology to adopt. I assume mostorganizations to be have technology departments headed by youngerpeople. This may, sometimes, unfortunately end up being an ageconflict.
Technologycan be seen as challenging organizations traditional order and insome cases challenging all industries or even nations. Decisions onthe value of employees are made based on one’s knowledge, ability,technological expertise, and skill contributing to the systemefficiency (Hatch, & Cunliffe, 2013). Technologytransforms these skills and knowledge into a commodity which oncesold can change the social class as well as power of those involved.Stories of successful young people such as the Facebook chiefexecutive officer – Mark Zuckerberg or those of Alibaba groupchief-Daniel Zang are good examples. The two organizations, Facebookand Alibaba, have distinguished themselves especially from othertechnology companies by having a unique organizational culture. Hatchand Cunliffe(2013) identify organization culture as values, norms, assumptionsand beliefs that may influence the thinking of individuals the waythey feel and act within a given context. Or simply, “how arethings done here”. In modern society this may not be represented byartefacts and symbols but fragmented and ambiguous. Traditions suchas reporting to work at the same hour and leaving work 8 hours laterhave been discarded upon. There is flexibility not just around timebut also how the place of work is viewed.
Flexibilityhas also been extended to the physical structure of organizations inpostmodern settings. Themodernist believes that physical structure has an influence on theefficiency and that it should be managed in order to help optimisethe work performance. This remains true for most organizations.However the symbolic interpret physical work environment as culturalartifactthat is to be adapted to suit the users’ preferences. They emphasisthe aesthetic qualities of the work place. However, to thepostmodernist, physical structures are material expressions ofembedded power relations (Hatch,& Cunliffe, 2013).I guess this is the reason why most banks and financial companieswant to locate on Wall Street or any other high value propertylocation.
InChapter eight, Hatch and Cunliffe are in agreement with Weber on histheories of class conflict and power. Before Weber, the Marxistsbelieved that control was based on power, and struggles over powerand control often results in conflict between different classes ofpeople. Max and followers believed that those who were powerlessneeded emancipation. However, as the post modernists would say, powercan be both positive and negative. It all depends on how it isapplied. In the positive light, organizations function better wherethere is disciplinary power (Hatch &Cunliffe, 2013). Surveillanceby both self and others is institutionalized in performance basedoutput, overseen by the human resource department. Iappreciated the theory and practice of organizational theoryaccording to Hatchand Cunliffe (2013) in chapter nine. Hatchand Cunliffe were also critical of the theories and especiallywhether they could apply to no western environments. According toHatch and Cunliffe (2013) thethree theories namely stakeholder theory, institutional theory, andenvironmental contingency were formulated and modified within theWestern societies including Nomadic Europe and Anglo Nomadic Europe.As organization expands and become global organization, the threetheories became applicable on a wider scale on the global arena.
Hatch,J. M., &Cunliffe, A. L. (2013). Organizationtheory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives.Oxford University Press.