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“A Very Short Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Organisations” by C. Grey Essay

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Updated: Dec 12th, 2021

Introduction

Organizations, more than ever, need to develop ways and means under which to survive in the competitive business environment that exists in this day and age. With the advancement of globalization, the running of organizations has become even more complex. This highlights the need for revising and reviewing the practicability of existing organizational theories. According to Price, the study of organizations draws on four major disciplines namely: economics, psychology, sociology, and system theory.

According to businessdictionary.com, organizational theory can be defined as the study of organizational designs and organizational structures, a relationship of organizations with their external environment and the behavior of managers and technocrats within organizations. The business dictionary also specifies that organizational theory suggests ways in which an organization can use to cope with rapid change (businessdictionary.com).

Why do organizations continue to commit the same mistakes again and again?

Although organizations are viewed as complex and their management challenging, Christopher Grey puts forth various factors that lead to organizations committing similar mistakes repeatedly. In agreement with Grey, Alan’s presentation of Thompson and McHugh’s approach of ‘management plus psychology’ does not work because there is no room for it in the real world. He points out that the biggest drawback to this approach is its tendency to sketch out generalizations to which all organizations are then expected to fit (Price, hrmguide.co.uk).

First, Christopher Grey argues out the differences between theory and practice. He states that the fact that a theory can be laid down in regard to organizational structures and control, does not mean that the theory will become successful upon implementation. As per his view, the theory is different from practical application. This, to him, leads to managers and human resource departments committing the same mistakes again and again. However, he points out that practice can never exist without laid down theories (pg 47).

Grey also states categorically that many studies and research work into organizational theory at the present are merely repetitions of earlier studies. This means that at present, theories only recycle the mistakes of the past since their structures and implementation processes borrow from the past. Grey also notes the fact that there exists a disjuncture between the formal and informal organizations whereby the formal organization of rules, procedures and what is meant to happen is not the same as the organization itself. He argues further on this point that the organization itself includes what actually happens and this could mean a less efficient bureaucracy (Pg 52).

Grey also says that due to the fact that in an organization the behaviors of individuals depend on their personal choices regardless of the rules, a perfect machine-like organization is practically impossible and can be considered as a myth. This is due to the fact that the behavior of individuals is highly unpredictable and despite the amount of research done upon it, an absolute value in regard to human behavior can never be attained. This rises to a repeat of mistakes despite the formulation of organizational theories (pg 58).

Christopher Grey notes the existence of a disjuncture due to the added complexity brought about by the fact that people will behave differently precisely because of the predictions that are made about them. He further tries to explain this by noting that if a prediction is made about the behavior of a natural object, it may or may not come true depending on how well-founded the predictions are though the outcome will not be affected by the predictions made. This may lead to a set of erroneous management performances by an organization making a repeat of mistakes with time (pg 88).

However, according to his further views which Daft concurs with, assumptions about people can have strange effects on their behavior and lead to commitment of errors in their performance or making them purportedly repeat errors in their workplaces. Thus his reasoning on this matter can be as well summarized and concluded that performance is not absolute in its nature (Grey pg 89, Daft pg 65).

Grey also tries to shed light on the effects of organizational theory by highlighting an example of the effects of Taylorism. Taylorism was a management theory propelled by Frederick Taylor and it based its arguments on compensation as per the amount of work done in a given amount of time. Taylorism brought about a breed of powerful managers and resulted in serious conflict amongst the workers and in organizational settings (pg 24).

According to Grey, this theory was directly responsible for strikes by workers and workers resigning on a massive scale from their jobs (pg 28). Taylorism also brought with it the problems of unemployment and hostility at the workplace. It also led to high staff turnover, absenteeism, sabotage by workers and low commitment leading to low quality in work output. These mistakes would have been avoided had this theory not been implemented (pg 32).

Grey faults the management principles of Taylor and Ford by claiming that they embody formal rationality and continue to define partially and substantially management to the present day. He argues that the basic idea of the rationality of means as the sole focus of managerial concern and the ideology of formal rationality in the managerial process has endured with time (pg 38).

In regard to human relationship theories, Grey argues that people are not machines and thus cannot be treated as such as some organizational theories advocate for. He states that the organizations that treat their manpower as machines are bound to repeat many past errors, unlike organizations that apply the humanitarian approach to their workforce (pg 46).

What does this say about organizational theory?

As much as the world today recommends and utilizes organizational theories, Grey’s arguments tend to imply that these sets of theories are not perfect, can not be wholly trusted and have their individual limits. From Grey’s perspective, organizational theories can thus not be wholly relied upon during the management processes (pg 112).

Indeed, Richard (pg 57) tends to support this view when he states that organizational theory is a set of complex scientific processes that may not achieve the desired results if not properly designed and implemented.

Secondly, Grey’s argument points to the fact that organizational theory independently is not an absolute solution to management problems and maybe a recipe for organizations to generate more organizational problems as in the case of Taylorism. Therefore, before an organization implements any theories, it is imperative that proper groundwork and research be done to ascertain the success or failure that will arise from the implementation. This also points to the fact that an organizational theory is difficult to implement and sometimes may be implemented in the wrong way leading to managerial disasters (McAlurly, Duberly & Phil pg 77).

Grey also tries to argue his point that it is difficult to develop an agreeable and reasonable organizational theory. A theory might not be accepted by either the management or the workforce and this will lead its implementation into a ditch making chances of its success to be highly limited (Grey pg 138).

Also, for an organizational theory to be termed as a success during the implementation phase, workers should be involved in its inception and their desires should be included in such theories to enable them to develop a positive attitude towards the theory when it is taken into practice (Jones & Munro pg 124).

Conclusion

From the above arguments, it can be concluded that as much as organizations try to invest in the development of theories, many factors will determine the success or failure of an organizational theory and whether it will be the source of continued mistakes within the organization. Wrong theories being implemented leads to wrong actions which in turn lead to a downturn in the general performance of an organization. It is therefore imperative that for errors to be prevented and mistakes avoided, theories should be scrutinized wholly to ensure that they conform and complement the strategies of an organization (Hatch, pg 212).

The theories applied to how organizations should be run have been demonstrated as not remaining static over time, rather undergoing a slow but constant metamorphosis that reflects the constant change in the work environment that parallel societal, cultural and industrial changes.

Grey is right in pointing out that no single theory can adequately cover for a particular organization because each organization has its own unique dynamics; thus, instead of those in charge working at getting their organization to fit into a particular theory, they should do the reverse and see how a theory can best fit into the running of an already existing institution.

Finally, the whole essay can be summarized through the words of Thompson and McHugh who state that “it is not meant to treat organizations as scout troops and trans-national companies within the same analytical framework because this in the past, has resulted in a massive – but vague and over-theoretical – body of literature with little practical value.” Alan (1997-2003).

Works Cited

Price Alan. ‘organization theory’. hrmguide.co.uk. n.d. Web. 2010.

Businessdictionary.com. ‘Definitions’ n.d. web. 2010.

Daft Richard L. Organizational Theory and Design. MA: Cengage Learning Center, 2008

Grey Christopher. A Very Short Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying organizations. London: Sage Publications Ltd, 2005

Hatch Reuben. ‘What is organizational Theory?’ n.d. web.2010.

Jones Campbell and Munro Rolland. Contemporary organization Theory. U.K: Blackwell Publishing, 2005

McAuley John, Duberley Joanne and Johnson Phil. Organization Theory: Challenges and Perspectives. Prentice Hall :NJ 2007

Woodward, Joan. Industrial-organizational Theory and Practice. London: Oxford University Press. 1965

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