Friday, September 21, 2007

Chapter Three: It's not an organization, it's a bug...

...or something.

25 comments:

LizC452 said...
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LizC said...

Understanding the metaphor that an organization is an organism was somewhat easy to understand because as humans we are an organism and we encounter them all the time in our everyday lives. When reading the chapter, I definitely understood how an organization could be compared to an organism in the sense of adapting to a certain environment, life cycles, and different species of organizations. Just as an organism does these kinds of things to survive, an organization is the same way. It also made sense that organizations are “open systems” just as organisms in that organizations are open and must achieve a relationship with its environment that is appropriate in order to survive. Another part of the chapter that made sense to me, as well as interested me, was the part about Darwin’s theory of evolution. An organization, just as an organism, survives only if they can attain enough of the right resources, and “only the fittest survive”. Even though all of this made sense to me, I had a hard time trying to compare a specific organism to an organization in our activity on Wednesday. I thought it would be easy since I understood the concept of the metaphor, but when it came time to compare an organization to a Holstein Cow and try to find a specific part of the chapter that it fit the best with, I was totally lost. That being said, this proved to be one of the harder metaphors for me to get because I could understand the concepts of it, but had a hard time putting into a real life situation.

jennad said...

It took me a while to get through this chapter...it seemed like it would never end...I like the metaphor of an organization is like an organism. It was neat seeing how different concepts of the organization could be discussed in the sense of "organism" and in effect how it all relates to the environment in which it is found. It was interesting seeing how this metaphor looked into how organizations were/are moving away from the mechanistic way of doing/looking at things and into a way that incorporates the needs and concerns of the workers. The section that was really en-grained into my mind was where it talked about "open systems"...I think the organism metaphor fits in well in this discussion...and the discussion of how an open system interacts/reacts/adapts w/ outside forces.

amandamc said...

I think that the metaphor of organization as an organism makes a lot of sense. Organizations must adapt to changing environments, just like organisms do. And I also understand the metaphor of different "species" of organisms. But I also agree that it was difficult to apply this concept to a real life example in class on Wednesday. It was frustrating understanding the material, but not being able to apply it to the specific organism.

mtn4105 said...

I think looking at an organization as an organism is a good idea. It adds more dimensions. An organism needs to adapt to changes to stay alive, much like an organization must do. I liked in the book how it talked about that an organizations, much like organism, can only survive if they attain enough of the right kind of resource. Thinking about this metaphor it seems to make sense to me that an organization could be compared to an organism, but when I actually try to apply this it becomes much more difficult.

jen c said...

I agree with Liz C. about grasping the concept of Chapter 3: an organization is like an organism. The correlation between the organization and the organism is easy to understand, but proved to be quite difficult to relate to an animal- like we did in class on Wednesday. I feel that not only was this easier to understand, but it was more accurate than the machine metaphor. It was interesting to read about how organization structure, like organisms, is predicted by its environment. To be healthy, it must be an open system and be able to adapt. Organizations and organisms seek an environment where they will be healthy and can survive. The most intriguing part of the chapter was illustrating the approach to subsystems that exist in both organizations and organisms. I never thought of an organization in being similar to an organism- even though I knew abstractly that they existed- and makes complete sense. Now trying to tie this into an organization being a giraffe...

Molly S said...

On the surface the metaphor of organizations functioning like an organism seems like a easy concept to grasp and the chapter gave easy to understand charts and graphs to illustrate this concept. However, I agree with the other comments posted, that when once it came time to apply this metaphor to the animal given to our groups in class, I thought it was difficult to 1. find which part of the chapter it was coming from, and 2. try to find things from the book at apply to your specific animal. I understand how this metaphor is popular and has been around for a long time since it is true that organizations can fuction like an organism. Hopefully today we can think of more examples of how to apply this to our animal.

BrookeM said...
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BrookeM said...

I think that so far in this class organizations as an organism have made the most sense to me. It is easy for me to relate to the idea that "individuals and groups like biological organisms, operate most effectively when their needs are satisfied." In order to be most effective organizations must be open and they must adapt to their ever changing environment. I didn't find this metaphor hard to relate to as a real life example, being a manager of a smaller store that was part of a large corporation I ran into many communication issues. For example, as much as tasks become routine at my job because of the constant changes made by the company you have to be flexible and be able to adapt to those changes whie still giving 110%.

Liz E. said...

Organisms have to be able to adapt to changing environments in order to survive. This can also be said of organizations. Different environments call for different approaches to organizational communication. In the exercise in class we had to chose an organization and then perform an analysis of how well it aligned to its environment. I found it interesting that one side of the scales was not necessarily better than the other, but that the alignment of the different parts of the organization was the most important thing. I found the characteristics of an uncertain and turbulent environment to be most like the accounting firm I interned at last semester. One feature of this environment is meetings to keep communication open throughout the organization. I went to a fair share of meetings during my internship, while some more effective than others, I believe they did open up the lines of communication and contributed to a better work environment. In the chapter it discusses natural selection, "only the fittest survive" this is true of both organisms and organizations. If organizations don't align with their environment a competitor will come in and put the organization out of business. Organisms are always changing and adapting to the environment and I think this is the key concept that organizations need to realize, that if they don't adapt they will become extinct.

kelsey k said...

I think that the metaphor of an organization being like an organism is actually easier for me to understand and relate to than the machine metaphor in the previous chapter. The characteristics and processes an organism goes through make it understandable when looking at the characteristics and processes different organizations go through. I also think that the open systems idea is important to keep in mind with this type of metaphor, as the environment is such a key factor when thinking of an organism. The exercise of writing down how the different organisms on the notecards related to this chapter was very helpful, and it was pretty fun to think of how you could apply the metaphor of the chapter to the characteristics related to each organism.

jessie S said...

This metaphor seems logical because all of the parts of an organization need to work together in order to experience a degree of success. I think that the previous metaphor of a machine did not recognize this need of collaboration within the company along with the adaption to the surrounding environment. It was interesting to do the class activity of illustrating different parts of an organization on a matrix. I found that my choosen organization, "Culver's" generally followed a straight line toward the left side of the grid. It is important for Culver's to have this structured format because there is no time in a fast-food restaurant for a democratic learning style with complex technology. It just shows that an organization has to fit its environment in order to meet the goals of the company.

cstmajor08 said...

After class today I am beginning to question the validity of using metaphors to describe organizations. "It is like this but it is not. It has this aspect but leaves out this detail." I understand the purpose of using metaphor in that it is to help us gain a more meaningful understanding of the world in which we live in. However, I feel that the metaphors being used can be vague and down-right confusing--therfore eliminating the purpose of using metaphor to gain a more meaningful understanding. Perhaps if we used a more simple metaphor until we start studying specific organizations in-depth we would better understand the basic concepts? Anyone else agree?
I also wanted to note that I indeed do enjoy a seminar style classroom but feel we need more structure to make sure the class stays in a progressive motion concerning learning concepts and applying them.
I feel Morgan may lose us all in the end with his metaphors...

heathstip said...

I was never one to be to excited about metaphors. I agree with cstmajor08 in the sense that it gets hard to apply metaphors when it seems like so much about applying them to organizations - and other things - can be back and forth, it is this, but it isn't, etc.
Thinking about an organization as an organism does make sense to me in the fact that so much in successful organizations needs to adapt with changing environments in order to continue being successful. I see this in my work at the Radisson. We have a pretty 'open system' in that we are looking for constant input and feedback from guests as well as employees to find out what we need to be doing to be more successful or satisfying to people's needs. I like the idea mentioned above that if an organization doesn't adapt, it will become extinct. It also makes sense to say that my organization is made up of many subsystems/cells, the different departments, that all make up one large living organism. After today's class I'm starting to feel like I'm working in a giant octapus...hmm...

JGrab said...

I felt that once again Morgan did a nice job of tying together organizations and metaphors. However I do have to agree with others when I think that Morgan might just end up confusing us all by the end of this book. Like many others I felt that I could understand his 'organizations and organisms' metaphor easier than the previous ones but it still didn't seem like that 'one perfect metaphor' that will make the most sense to me in the end. The benefits of the organism metaphor is that it relates quite easily to nature and really gives us insight on how important adaptation is when it comes to a business. I also felt that by looking at organizations from an organism point of view that I was able to get a better grasp of how org's around the world view their own existence...change or be left behind; just like what was mentioned today in class with Sony. Relating all of this to a giraffe though...not an easy task, but then again after hearing all of the other choices, maybe a giraffe wasn't so bad.

MelissaF said...

Although I understood the metaphorical idea of organizations as organisms before today's class period, after applying it to different animals and such I can actually make sense of it. This activity was very beneficial. It has led me to think of organizations that I am or have been a part of and how they are like organisms. My partner and I had a rose bush and we applied open systems to it but after going through everything, we realized that we could also apply needs to it as well (sun, soil, water, carbon dioxide- humans). It was interesting to see the variety of different items and how they all could be described using the same set of characteristics.

Teri said...

After today's class, I was trying to compare the metaphor that I had with an organization that I am familiar with. I think that I have made a connection with the company that I cuurently work for-Maurices (a clothing store for women). I had the metaphor of a tropical island and used the open system as a way to look at it in more depth. I think that the Maurices organization can be described using this metaphor because the organization is quite complex. Like the tropical island, the company has many components (individual stores) that must work together to keep the entire company functioning and profitable. Also like the island metaphor, there are certain ways in which the organization has adapted to remain "living". For example, there is a certain amount of distance placed between Maurices stores so that they are not in direct competition with one another. Also, Maurices has chosen to focus on business in smaller town which allows them to remain more profitable because they have less competition from other clothing stores. In the same way that different stores work to remain profitable in themselves, the company also works hard to create a certain atmosphere that is consistent across the organization. In this way, the company works together to help each individual store be the best that it can be. I'm sure there are many other ways that the Maurices company is like a tropical island, however, right now, these are the ideas that are coming to mind.

TracyMachtan said...

I thought that understanding organizations as organisms was going to be easier than what it turned out to be. It's easy to say "organizations are like leopards because they rely on their environment." However, every organization relies on its environment. I found this metaphor more interesting when I looked at it a little more closely. As I said in class, some organizations could be like leopards because they interact with and rely on their environment, but they're a little bit more aggressive about the way they do it.

One organization I'll try to look at by using the leopard metaphor is Alpha Phi sorority and sororities in general. Alpha Phi needs to pay attention to the environment in which it exists to survive. For example, sometimes sororities don't do as well at technical colleges, as there is usually a small number of women compared to men at these schools. On larger campuses, Alpha Phi can be like a leopard, fighting with other sorories and other campus organizations for resources (new members) rather than waiting for them. However, sororities also pay attention to the usefulness of shared futures. They realize that, together, they can do much bigger, better things. This explains the existence of college Panhellenic Councils, the governing bodies of sororities on university campuses.

courtneyb said...

I agree that today's exercise with the different metaphors was very helpful. I think i still like the machine metaphor better, but this one isn't as bad as I originally thought on Wednesday. At first it seemed like a stretch that all the different animals/ecosystems could be comparable with an organization, but it all worked, and all seemed to make sense. It was easy to find what part of the chapter to use (we had the garbage dump, so the open system part seemed like a no brainer) but the relating it to an organization was the part that took more thinking. I almost think I lucked out with mine because there is no way I would have ever linked a Golden Retriever and natural selection. but hey, it works. I think metaphors are great.

Nick T said...

Snakes on a Metaphor

As I was reading the chapter I was sort of digesting it in a very segmented manner. I was mentally separating out the systems section from the survival of the fittest and so on.

As we developed our group metaphors I was thinking similarly. We had a rattlesnake and I immediate went to survival of the fittest just because of my image of a snake. We explored the aspects of a rattlesnake, like using the rattle as a defensive mechanism, shedding it's skin after a period of time, being cold blooded (R.I.P Rick James). We explored these traits focusing on the survival of the fittest but I found after hearing how other groups had explored their metaphors that our metaphor really had aspects in all of the sections of the chapter.

Being cold blooded is much like an open system as the outside world affects the snake. Shedding it's skin is an adaptation to it's surrounds (or at least I think it is, I don't know much about snakes).

lsenz said...

I thought this metaphor was a bit more challenging than the machine but still a good one. Since I work at the YMCA, I applied this metaphor to it. Organisms only exist with a continuous exhange with their environment which is definitely true for the YMCA. Without members there would be no YMCA. There is also a process that is followed throughout the YMCA in order to maintain success. This metaphor works but was not obvious or clear from the start. I think that is due to the fact that all open systems have a certain degree, meaning some are stronger open systems than others.

johnd said...

The metaphor of an organism for an organization is a very good metaphor. I think it is good to see that organizations have to be open systems to be able to compete on a level playing ground. There are also many other things like interdependence which ties in the aspects of everything inside the organization working together as well as aspects outside the organization working together to make the organization better. I thought that the survival of the fittest was also a very good aspect to see in an organization. I think, just like the rattle snake or any other living thing that has survived best in its niche, there needs to be something that defines an organization. When looking at the rattle snake, it has a rattle which is unique, as well as its poisonous venom which helps it rise above its competition. Every organization has to have a uniqueness. I thought throughout class that there were some very good concepts being talked about.

KimB said...

When we originally got handed our little cards with our organisms on it, I didn't think I would learn as much as I actually did in the class. We had the chicken- and we thought chickens were cooped up, so it was a closed system. But then when we talked about it in class I realized that first of all, no organization is totally closed. and the more i thought of how chickens are still dependent on farmers, and are only slightly closed off from the "real world". Ideally they would have no outside factors, but that just not how things are. I think its impossible for an organization to be closed off completely of other things going on around it. There is no way it would survive. As much as I thought this was just an easy in class project, it really got me to think about open/closed organizations to a new level.

ps- I have had to change my user name and password three times now because I keep forgetting them.

colep said...

Ladies and Gents.....whoa totally forgot until late last night lying in bed to POST....so here I am at work doing so now!

I am glad to have Dan back in class first of all.....secondly, Great interaction between everyone on Monday....I love leaving work to come to class, because it's refreshing to watch and listen to how it was when I was living that life....

We messed up a bit and had our Golden Retriever in the wrong category but we sure did think alot about it so I think all in all that was the plan to begin with!

I liked chapter 3 because of the charts and the continuous breakdown of methphors and organizations!

Onward!

dano said...

Comparing any organization to a living organism makes a lot of sense. We use these metaphors as a learning tool because we know more about the organism than we do the organization. By comparing these organizations to something we already know about, it is easier to relate the ideas of how the organization works to people who might not know. For example, the octopus, the head can be the organization as a whole. It's arms on the other hand work independently to feed the whole. Relating this to an organization makes the branches of an organization much easier to see.