When it comes to ensuring the proper functioning of a particular organization, managers that address this task often realize that the measure of the organization’s functional effectiveness reflects the extent of its structural integrity. On the part of managers, the earlier mentioned consideration causes the latter to apply an additional effort in making sure that the principle of the ‘division of labor’ is being thoroughly observed within the context of how employees execute their professional duties. This could not be otherwise, because as Bolman and Deal (2008) noted: “Division of labor – or allocating tasks – is the keystone of structure. Every living system creates specialized roles to get important work done (p. 52). Partially, this explains why the commercial performance of some companies continues to be strongly affiliated with the notion of tradition, often reflected by the top-managers’ tendency to stress out the uninterrupted continuity of those corporate bodies that they happened to be associated with. By acting in such a manner, managers aim to achieve two simultaneous objectives: a) To emphasize that the ‘division of labor’ principle represents the cornerstone of the organization’s functioning; b) To promote the idea that, due to the organization’s structural stability (reflected by its historical performance-legacy), it is predestined to successfully address a variety of different operational challenges in the future.
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In this respect, the example of the gallery of CEOs portraits hanging on the wall at the company’s headquarters, mentioned by Marshall (2002), comes in particularly illustrative. Those who came up with the idea believed that by having the ‘shrine of CEOs’ exhibited on the wall, they would be able to convince employees and visitors that the company in question was ‘failure-proof’ – all because this gallery implied that the company’s CEOs never ceased subjecting employees to authoritarian control. As the author pointed out: “The gallery was meant to be a tribute to a great group of people and to show a sense of continuity… It was a symbol of endless success at a time when we weren’t that successful” (p. 32). Nevertheless, the structural rigidity of a particular organization is far from being considered the foremost key to maintaining its operational effectiveness – quite on the contrary. This is because being, in essence, an open thermodynamic system, the functional integrity of an organization, is not solely concerned with how the organization’s structural elements fit within the established operational milieu, but also with what accounts for the qualitative aspects of how these elements interrelate with each other.
The validity of this statement appears self-evident nowadays when long-established commercial organizations face several challenges due to globalization’s realities. For example, as far back as fifty years ago, managers never doubted the legitimacy of the rationale-based managerial paradigm, which stressed out the importance of solely material incentives as the mean of increasing the effectiveness of the employees’ professional performance. However, this is no longer the case because the very discourse of a post-industrial living creates objective preconditions for employees to be increasingly concerned with attaining cognitive self-actualization as the major stimulant for them to continue to remain enthusiastic about their jobs. In its turn, this explains why, as of today, more and more managers opt in favor of clearly non-authoritarian (lateral) methods for coordinating the employees’ efforts, without endangering the organization’s structural wholesomeness, such as meetings, task-forces, matrix-structures and networks (Bolman & Deal, 2008). As time goes on, managers grow increasingly aware of the fact that it is specifically the measure of the functional flexibility, on the part of the company’s employees, which reflects this company’s overall chances to remain operationally competitive – especially if the concerned organization manufactures intellectually intense products or provides intellectually intense services. After all, as physicists are well aware of, the stability of an open thermodynamic system positively relates to the extent of this system’s complexity, on the one hand, and to what accounts for its ability to adjust to the newly emerged external circumstances, on the other.
Therefore, Marshall’s decision to take down the ‘shrine of CEOs’ appears thoroughly justified – by having done it, he exposed himself as a manager who knows how to deal with organizational challenges in a strongly defined systemic manner. In this respect, it would prove impossible to disagree with Cohen’s (2005) suggestion that, “Leaders who think of their organization as an open, dynamic system are more likely to accomplish complex change because they are more apt to see and understand the sometimes subtle and complex organizational barriers that must be eliminated to bring about successful change” (p. 165). It appears that Marshall’s decision was not only dictated by the consideration of urgency, on his part, but also by this individual’s understanding that, even when conducting an organizational change is not being driven by the earlier mentioned consideration, the affected parties must still regard the process in question as utterly urgent. There can be very little doubt as to the fact that by parting away with the ‘shrine,’ Marshall did contribute towards establishing the discourse of urgency within the organization, which in turn helped him to ensure the success of the intended undertaking.
Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cohen, D. (2005). The heart of change field guide: Tools and tactics for leading change in your organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Marshall, R. (2002). The CEO portrait gallery. In J. Kotter & D. Cohen (Eds.), The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations (pp. 31-33). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.