Gareth Morgan's book is designed to develop the art of reading and understanding organizations. He works from the premise that our theories and explanations of organizational life are based on metaphors that lead us to see and understand organizations in distinctive, yet partial ways. He demonstrates how the use of different metaphors provides new ways of managing and designing organizations. His book also stands as a treatise on metaphorical thinking that contributes to both the theory and practice of organizational analysis.
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Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION MECHANIZATION TAKES COMMAND ORGANIZATIONS AS MACHINES Machines, Mechanical Thinking, and the Rise of Bureaucratic Organization Strengths and Limitations of the Machine Metaphor NATURE INTERVENES ORGANIZATIONS AS ORGANISMS Discovering Organizational Needs Recognizing the Importance of Environment, Organizations as Open Systems Contingency Theory The Variety of the Species Organizational Health and Development Natural Selection Organizational Ecology Strengths and Limitations of the Organismic Metaphor TOWARD SELF-ORGANIZATION ORGANIZATIONS AS BRAINS Images of the Brain Organizations as Information-Processing Brains Brains and Organizations as Holographic Systems Strengths and Limitations of the Brain Metaphor CREATING SOCIAL REALITY ORGANIZATIONS AS CULTURES Culture and Organization Creating Organizational Reality Strengths and Limitations of the Culture Metaphor INTERESTS, CONFLICT, AND POWER ORGANIZATIONS AS POLITICAL SYSTEMS Organizations as Systems of Government Organizations as Systems of Political Activity Manageing Pluralist Organizatons Strengths and Limitations of the Political Metaphor EXPLORING PLATO'S CAVE ORGANIZATIONS AS PSYCHIC PRISONS The Trap of Favored Ways of Thinking Organizations and the Unconscious Strengths and Limitations of the Psychic Prison Metaphor UNFOLDING LOGICS OF CHANGE ORGANIZATION AS FLUX AND TRANSFORMATION Implicate and Explicate Aspects of Organization Autopoiesis The Logic of Self-Producing Systems Organizations as Self-Producing Systems Loops not Lines The Logic of Mutual Causality Contradiction and Crisis The Logic of Dialectical Change Strengths and Limitations of the Flux Metaphor THE UGLY FACE ORGANIZATIONS AS INSTRUMENTS OF DOMINATION Organization as Domination How Organizations Use and Exploit their Employees Multinationals and the World Economy Strengths and Limitations of the Domination Metaphor DEVELOPING THE ART OF ORGANIZATIONAL ANALYSIS Using Metaphor to Read and Understand Organization Using Metaphor to Manage and Design Organization Reading as Theory in Practice IMAGINIZATION A DIRECTION FOR THE FUTURE On Elephants and Organizations Imaginization Organization as a way of Thinking
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In today's business environment, most organizations are complex and multifaceted. There is a marked trend away from the idea of centralization and large bureaucracy toward the concept of decentralization, which allows for more flexible and responsive decision making. Furthermore, globalization has forced organizations to develop a "global mind set," which has impacted the way how corporations operate in the economy. Morgan believes that modern organizations can be best understood in terms of metaphors. He defines metaphors as certain images that can be produced to view and analyze critical issues of organizational life from different angles. Morgan provides the reader with eight very different and powerful metaphors: 1. Organizations as Machines (Mechanization); 2. Organizations as Organisms (Nature); 3. Organizations as Brains (Self-Organization); 4. Organizations as Cultures (Social Reality Creation); 5. Organizations as Political Systems (Interests, Conflicts, and Power); 6. Organizations as Psychic Prisons (Plato's Cave); 7. Organizations as Flux and Transformation (Logics of Change); and 8. Organizations as Instruments of Domination (The Ugly Face). He also discusses various theories, including Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy, Henri Fayol's administrative theory, Frederick Taylor's theory of scientific management, and Peter Senge's theory of learning organizations, as well as Emile Durkheim's theory of morality and symbolism. This discussion further helps the reader understand how organizations function. Morgan mentioned that the skill of "reading" a particular situation occurs at an almost unconscious level; it is an intuitive process that is influenced by experience and the general ability of the manager and leader. Yet, the art of creating images and analyzing situations of organizational life can also be learned. He shows the reader in great detail how this can be done. Morgan points out that the biggest benefit of using metaphors is to stretch our imagination and create powerful insights into the different dimensions of an organization. He also makes the reader aware that different qualities, as identified by the metaphor analysis, can coexist in organizations. Morgan warns us, however, that metaphors are inherently paradoxical: On the one hand, they can significantly improve our understanding of organizations; on the other hand, they can distort an image, if not carefully interpreted, and block our ability to gain a correct overall view. It is thus not surprising that Morgan places a major emphasis on showing the reader how to properly use these eight metaphors. In my opinion, "Images of Organization" is an excellent information resource and practical guide for managers and leaders who want to understand the different facets of their organizations with the ultimate goal to improve them. In this regard, I consider a major strength of this book the successful linkage of theory to management practice. Morgan prepared a text that contains rich ideas, sophisticated reasoning, and clear presentation. The book is intellectually stimulating and encourages leaders and managers to learn from the past and prepare for the future. This text is also quite useful for students who want to learn the trade of imaging organizations. I would highly recommend Morgan's book - it is absolutely worth the investment.
Morgan clearly undermines the dominance of any single conceptual framework to view the nature and behavior of organizations. Readers will gain insights into irrational patterns that emerge within an organization, as well as outside of its boundaries. In particular, Morgan provides a broad introduction to systems theory and the assumptions of its various subfields. Overall, the text was balanced in its complexity and ease of reading. Nevertheless, it was always enjoyable.