Organizations are like organisms in many ways. They need resources to grow, evolve and survive. Organizations also require a variety of different organizations themselves to function properly. The key difference between organizations and organisms is that organizations can be designed, created or destroyed at any time by human intervention. This essay will explore the similarities between organizations and organisms as well as how organizations differ from other living things on earth.
Prior to the idea of organization as an organism being introduced, organizations were considered as machines. This metaphor of organizations as machines provided the groundwork for organizational planners to search for more successful tactics to address their external environment. Many bureaucratic firms’ inflexibility forced organizational theorists to look for a different way to think about organizations. As a result, theorists sought for answers in ecology and more particularly biology to understand how organizations function.
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The metaphor of organizations as organisms was thus born. Ecology deals with the way organisms interact with their surroundings. When applied to businesses, “the social ecology of an organization refers to a living system of relationships among people, their small groups, and their communities,” (Morgan, 1998, p. 34). This paper discusses Gareth Morgan’s proposal that organizations should be compared to living things.
The idea that organizations must survive in a competitive business world in an ever-expanding external environment was borrowed from Darwin’s assertion that “survival of the fittest” is applied to populations. Some organization theorists were compelled to examine businesses as open systems as a result of the fact that organizations must compete in today’s highly competitive business climate.
The environment is not just there for humans to use; it exists independent of them. The organism metaphor encourages organisms to react in an open system way (Buono & Jamieson, 2010, p. 120). The open system perspective sees the organization as part of a larger ecosystem and also includes integrated subsystems within the corporation (Morgan, 1998). These systems are interconnected and mutually depend on one another, with the goal that they may assist one another in maintaining several essential procedures.
Understand the needs and vulnerabilities of your competitors. This is also true for an organization. Indeed, the development and sustainability of any company will not only allow it to survive in a competitive market, but it will also enable it to change quickly enough to react to changes in the environment. Organizations are flexible because they are redesigned. The redesigning of an organization is defined by Alvesson (2002) as altering its fundamental structure and procedure.
In addition, democratic and participative leaders are required for the survival of an organization, in contrast to authoritarian or autocratic leaders who are typical of mechanistic organizations (Golembiewski, 2000). Participative and democratic leaders encourage members to participate actively. As a result, the survival of an organization is also linked to the growth and improvement of its members. The growth of an organization’s members may be illustrated by the creation of appealing employment opportunities, freedom, reliability, and recognition. As a result, the company will be more productive and stay ahead of its competitors as a consequence.
Strengths of the Organism Metaphor of Organizations
Traditional metaphors of organization (such as machines) paid no attention to the role an environment may play in the success of an organization (Massarik, 1995). The theories, on the other hand, regarded organizations as closed systems that could be built out of clearly defined pieces. On the contrary, organism metaphors imply that organizations must consider their surroundings in order to survive.
The organism metaphor emphasizes the organization’s continued existence as the primary aim of any company. This is in stark contrast to previous theories, which focused on the attainment of particular operational goals (Jackson, 2000). Survival is a method for achieving objectives and targets.
This viewpoint allows for adaptability and alerts management to the danger of treating objectives and goals as ends in themselves. This is a frequent organizational error around the world. The organism metaphor emphasizes resource usage and attainment, as well as the satisfaction of varied needs that help organizations extend their strategy (Magalhaes, 2004). The achievement of environmental congruence is a major managerial responsibility.
Weaknesses of the Organism Metaphor of Organizations
Organisms are species that exist in a natural environment and have physical features that influence their survival and well-being. This natural world may be observed, felt, and touched. Nature is an objective and actual reality in every way. Nonetheless, when applied to an organization, this picture is not accurate because organizations and their environments are generally socially created phenomena (Taylor & Every, 2000).
Because organizations are the results of thoughts, ideas, customs and beliefs, their structure and make-up is more subtle and cautious than that of an organism’s material composition. Even though there are many tangible components in an organization, its survival – in the form of continuing organizational action – relies on human beings’ inventive efforts. As a result, it is fallacious to claim that organizations must adapt to their external constraints as earlier theorists have argued.
The organization as living entity metaphor sees organizations as things that exist only because of the relationships between their parts. This metaphor has a lot of value in describing the functioning and survival of organizations, especially in reference to its external context. Despite its many advantages, this metaphor also has certain limitations, which I’ve addressed in this paper.
Organizing as a living entity. An approach to viewing organizations from a biological standpoint is to consider them as living systems. Organizations are seen through the lens of biology, with regard to their environment, which they rely on one another to meet various demands. It was discovered that organizations have the same notion of a living creature when compared to studying and comparing organization with live organism. To survive, adapt, cope with turbulence, and reproduce, an organization must first have the appropriate setting; this is known as the life cycle. If it does not get this right away it will perish and die.
Organizational systems must be able to adapt to changing environments, organizational life cycles, and other elements that influence organizational health and development. The main difficulty they have is keeping all of their administrative staff up to date with the most recent developments and desires of the community. Their biggest challenge is finding competent people who can merge with the symphony environment and collect all of the data indicating what the community wants to hear. They’ll be less successful than they would have been otherwise, and this will result in little or no revenue from tickets, low morale among musicians, and loss of contributors. As a result, it’s critical for symphonies to align with their communities.
The bread and butter of symphonies comes from their performance. Symphonies’ performance, their ultimate product, is intended for the public. Another difficulty that symphonies confront is the fact that while they are somewhat a part of the community, they have certain operational difficulties owing to issues such as high cost value in particular areas like leasing fees for their stadiums, which are rather expensive.
The similarity and distinction between the Military and an Orchestra organization. Both organizations have an open system concept, taking input from their environment to create and deliver a final result to their surroundings. The Military obtain monetary support to provide military service to its populace in order to generate its ultimate output.
Organized life as a whole. From the viewpoint of a biological metaphor, organizations are viewed as organisms. Organizations are seen from the perspective of a living system environment in which they rely on one another to fulfill various wants. When analyzing and comparing organizations with living organisms, it was discovered that they have the same definition as a living organism. An organization must have appropriate conditions in order for it to survive, adapt, navigate turbulences, and reproduce; the cycle of live is necessary for this process to continue indefinitely. If not, it will perish and be destroyed.
Adaptability, organizational life cycles, elements affecting organizational health and development, different species of organizations, and the connections between species and ecology are just a few of the variables that organizations must consider. Metaphors’ Strengths and Limitations.
Strengths of Metaphor The fundamental idea is that, rather than focusing on the improvement and quality of human needs within an organization or structure, we should focus on building relationships with people outside the organization. People inside and outside the company are important. Organizational relationships and their environment are valued. Viewing organizations as living organisms that evolve allows them to adapt to their surroundings and be open to change. Balance or imbalance can be found in all things. Living organisms are healthy if they have a healthy balance between life force energy (vitality) and intellect (reason).
The Obstacles of Organism Metaphor Use in Human Services Work * Views organizations as real and objective rather than socially constructed. * Underestimates the significance of culture; ideas, myths, values. The Importance of a Proper Environment. Humanity requires a healthy ecology in order for it to survive, and with the living metaphor, it has been demonstrated that an organization also needs a good one to live.
Organizations should not be considered as merely a functioning machine that serves its own interests without regard to the environment, but rather as living systems made up of smaller components that collaborate to form a whole organism. The military and the orchestra are two examples of unique organizations that can be defined as “open systems” since in order to endure, they must accept input from their surroundings and engage with their own sub-systems or parts in order to survive.
Subunits can be thought of as elements of an organization that contribute to its functioning components. We consider this an open system because whether or not an organization’s links with its sub units are based on its survival, the company’s interactions with them will be dependent. This paper tries to show that the military and an orchestra are two different organizations, but they are linked in that they can function as a living system, and both require inputs from their surroundings in order to survive.
The military is a basic-economic system, an “Eco system” made up of various fundamental units that have their own labor force that works to achieve the overall goal of producing a military “aggregate soldier”that surpasses the sum of all subunits. The military is a unique entity, yet its size and power may work against it. The military unit is a self-sustaining dynamic flow of input and output that drives on economic resources required to create its own domestic product, a ready army.
The frequent need for resources can become a burden at times, since our society allows for a voluntary source; by establishing a constitutional duty that is deemed essential, the military compels individuals to serve for a period of time in order to help produce that economic resource. The military depends on the external economic climate to provide resources in order to generate its domestic product, and the environment’s stability may impact its performance due to reduced combat capability as well as members’ personal consumer lifestyles.
In order for the military to be a viable force, it must first recognize and implement the economic principles that underpin society’s daily life and activity. Labor efficiency is enhanced by upgrading logistical and technical equipment capability, ensuring that each member is capable, raising economic awareness to decrease waste, fostering cohesion and cooperation among personnel, as well as examining foreign and national units in order to establish a cohesive team (Federov, 2001).
The orchestra may be likened to a military organization, in which smaller components make up the whole. It has complex interconnected subsystems that necessitate the orchestra’s economic environment for its survival. The orchestra resembles an organization in terms of distinct job function boundaries, such as departments and volunteers. These systems may be deconstructed even further into departmental levels within each job function.
The orchestra’s reliance on the external environment for income via ticket sales and contributions to meet its “personnel intensive” asset requirements is considerable. To assist the orchestra, marketing promotes events in order to generate money through record sales. Members are attempting to engage with their community by offering music education in order that they may gain feedback about how much they love music.
Another concern is the quality of life that music provides rather than a lack of money. It’s difficult to evaluate an intangible asset like this, but looking at the community as a whole and the stability of an orchestra’s economic input-process-output stability may provide a better indication. Roelofs (2005) notes that there are several issues not in the form of economical need.
In terms of a functioning system, the military and an orchestra are comparable in that they both have interactions with smaller units and form a whole. The military is a single whole process in which each member contributes to the formation of a unit that has a systemic impact. These individual units develop and, when combined, result in the formation of a military force with the ability to generate a large workforce in a restricted area.
A common sense of duty, as well as a knowledge of economic expectations on labor outputs, is necessary for relationships to develop. The orchestra also comprises of systems and subsystems that work together to form the entire ensemble. Board members in the orchestra work to raise funds for the organization, staff, volunteers, and musicians alike. As a result of military actions throughout the world, both institutions are seen as a whole unit.
The U.S. military fights other countries in combat to defend people and serve as ambassadors for other nations in order to strengthen bonds and foster friendships while ensuring survival. The orchestra’s goal is to provide music to communities so that they may feel proud and unified, and establish themselves with others. Every system has its own autonomy and function; managers use established methods within the organization’s logic and how it responds to events to collaborate. Managers work together in an attempt at collaboration for sustainability by regarding organizations as a living system (Capra, 1996).
In terms of a systems approach, there are significant distinctions between the way an orchestra and a military operate in terms of the environment. Both parties operate as they each are created via subordinate units with its own interdepartmental system and how they cooperate to support the overall unit, but one may view the orchestra as a subunit of the organization while viewing the military as a whole entity.
With an orchestra, one may be found in almost every community and each works to support itself so that it may provide music to the community and the numerous programs it offers. Each organization’s operation might be a little different, budgets and contributions will vary, and each orchestra’s depth will differ; their output will be determined by what their own organization wants to offer. The military’s sub units work towards a single objective set by the organization. Its living systems are defined by how they operate and for what purpose.
The objective is to develop the best technologically as well as maintain the necessary technical knowledge throughout the economic restrictions set down, and how do we instill a long-term mentality among thousands of people that they are a living system? While each organization requires an open ecosystem of resources for food, they differ in their outputs.
Take TUIU, for example. Because TUIU is a university organization with several subunits that make up the entire part, it may be regarded as a whole unit. Students are comparable to cells, and they generate various organs and tissue. The tissue can be likened to the classes provided to the cells, similar to food feeding them inside their subunit. Each department of the university is an organ that receives all of the cells and sends them out to other parts for answers and required activities. The university as a whole serves as the brain, and all parts are needed to operate. When students combine for a common aim and have mutual interaction, TUIU transforms from a social system into a social network. Processes begin to disassemble if students don’t interact.
How can we summarize living systems in relation to an orchestra or a military? What could we compare the organization to, as we compared it with the orchestra and military before? When you examine the autonomy of each department in reaching objectives, an organization is considered a live system. Managers absorb the logic and emotions of the organization’s goal, then implement strategies to encourage employees to improve processes, making them faster, cheaper, and better. Employees are empowered and motivated by what they care about (Capra, 1996).
Despite the fact that many people think of an organization as a living system, how can we connect it to a machine? Organizations are relationships that endure over time, much like a well-functioning machine. Members who operate machines (inter-departmental) must be prepared for changes in the machine’s needs as the environment changes since data is its nourishment. The levers (people) take signals from the outside and pass them on so that behaviors may be modified. Your firm is currently promoting a new shoe.
You choose to do a marketing analysis using random cities selling the shoe (feedback loop) and your levers (people in the company) pass on feedback signals to the machine (inter-departments) in order for it to make adjustments in response to the changing environment and market new versions of the shoe (Flower, 1995).
In a living system, a whole unit with sub units that relate and interconnect in order to support being a whole unit, the military and the orchestra are two examples of how anybody can deconstruct an organization. A social system is what makes a unit whole; it’s called a community or an ecosystem. The military stands out because it not only survives on the technology and economic resources it is given, but also on people around the world who feel compelled by their duty to protect others.
The orchestra is also noteworthy in that its survival entirely relies on the support of its people. Music can help bring communities together, but since it requires funding from the same individuals who supply the resources for it to survive, inter-departmental cooperation is required. Another theory discussed was how an organization or organism might function as a machine. The environment serves as the feedback loop by utilizing the organization’s levers to send signals for change. Organisms, such as humans, must learn from their past in order to adapt and function as a whole unit in response to changing conditions.