This essay explores the concept of studying organisation styles metaphorically, particularly as perceived by Gareth Morgan (1986). The essay begins by describing two of the organisational metaphors, specifically the mechanistic organisation and the organisation as a brain being the most diverse of the metaphors used. It then reviews the interpretation of theorists writing on the subject and explores the practicalities of these organisational styles. In exploring these interpretations the essay discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each of the styles of organisation and endorses the continuous improvement of the brianlike organisations, but also seeks to highlight potential limitations which may arise.
"A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a phrase is applied to something that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance." (Collins English Dictionary, 2002)
The image created by metaphor allows us to make comparisons and see similarities between how, in this case, different organisations are run and describe the organisations in a way that can easily be recognised.
Gareth Morgan (1986) has widely promoted the value of using different metaphors to look at organisations. The first metaphor, the organisation as a machine, is possibly the easiest to understand. Morgan (1986) explains how this style of organisation underpins the development of bureaucracy. The mechanical metaphor was dominant for most of the last century, and is associated with the work of Taylor & Fayol (Pugh & Hickson 1989). When we think of an organisation as a machine we imagine a very systematic approach which is frequently seen in bureaucratic organisations. They usually have strict processes and chains of command with a hierarchical, top down style of management.
These organisations are conceived of a series of functional departments carrying out precisely defined jobs and responsibilities with detailed attention to patterns of authority. This classical management style promotes rational systems carried out in as efficient way as possible.
The second of Morgan's (1986) metaphors however, considers the organisation as a brain and draws the attention to the importance of information, learning and intelligence and provides a frame of reference for understanding modern organisations.
This style of organisation has the capacity to be flexible, resilient and inventive with a continuous improvement. The brain has no centre point of control but stores and processes vast amounts of data in many of its parts simultaneously and the order emerges from the process it is, rather than being imposed.
Frederick Taylor first considered the principle of scientific management (the mechanistic style) in the late 19th century (Pugh & Hickson 1989). He believed the responsibility of the organisation belonged to the manager and workers implemented what they were told to do. Taylor carried out time and motion studies showing how tasks could be carried out the most efficiently. One of his sayings was "You are not supposed to think. There are people paid for thinking around you" (Management Development 2005). Taylor believed that payment by results was motivation enough for the workers if they were told exactly what to do.
Henri Fayol, who was working at the beginning of the 20th century (Pugh & Hickson 1989), also approved of this style of organisation with the emphasis on command and control, believing the functions of management were five fold planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling. With the managers having a high level of accountability.
Max Weber, also writing around the turn of the 20th century (Pugh & Hickson 1989), observed these parallels between the organisation and the machine. However he could see that this form of organisation had the potential to routinise and...