Organizations as Machine or Living System

Organization as Machine or Complex Adaptive System

Organizations as Machine

Organization as Living System with a Brain

Goals and directions are imposed from outside or above

Goals and processes to serve those goals emerge to satisfy organization needs and mission

Centralized power authority

Decentralized authority distributed power

Leaders as authoritarians

Leaders promote participatory processes and influence decision making, goals, and means

Decisions are made above and communicated as instructions to be carried out below

Processes in place for shared decision making

Exerting control is primary job of managers

Managers promote self-organizing properties of organization

Lines of authority

Circles of accountability

Employees expected to do as they are told

Direct and open communication and feedback views as essential

Fixed division of tasks

Flexibility of role definitions with overlap

When something needs to be fixed, somebody has to fix it

The system adapts and self-organizes repair and restoration

Hierarchical supervision

360 ° supervision

Detailed rules and regulations

Detailed processes, flexible rules

Break work down into smallest parts

Consideration of the whole

Command and control language
Slot to fill, Reengineering, Insubordination,
Precision, speed, marching orders, the troops, efficiency, productivity

Language related to living system metaphor – feedback, feelings, thoughts, ideas, movement, growth, future, change, learning

People are hired to operate machine and everyone is expected to behave in a predetermined way

People are hired to help improve functioning of the whole organization with specific tasks and responsibilities

Machine is owned by someone

Can anyone own a living system?

Machine doesn’t learn

Living systems learn, grow, adapt and evolve

Adapted from A. deGeus,  The Living Company and G. Morgan, Images of Organization. [2, 7]