Organisational structure can be perceived in various angles that projects a new way of thinking in regards to building structure in the organisation. There are three perspectives mainly the modern, symbolic interpretive and postmodern that has varying view of theories in regards to the social structure in organisations. Each provides a distinctive scope on how the social structure should be constructed. In this essay we are going to explore the three different perspectives and how each perspective serves to help us in understanding and analysing structure in an organisation through their relative theoretical arguments. In the first section of the essay, we are going to explore the basic ontology, epistemology and methods of the three different perspectives in general. The second part of the essay will demonstrate the relative perception of organisational structure for the three perspectives and explains how these three perspectives advocate their views of organisational structure that will help us gain insight on understanding and analysing it.
Ontology and Epistemology
The modern, symbolic interpretive and post-modern perspective consists of two aspects, the ontology which is what defines the reality we know and epistemology which is the process of gathering and analysing information that leads to the definition of our perceived reality (Hatch & Cunliffe 2006).
For ontology, the modernist believes that in objectivity things has an objective, external reality that exists independent of our knowledge. Modernists view organisations as real entities and also a system of decisions and actions driven by norms of efficiency, effectiveness and rationality. The symbolic interpretive perspective however believes in subjectivism where an objective existence of things cannot exist without any subjective awareness of them or acknowledgement of their existence that is agreeable by people (Nonaka & Tomoka 2005). Symbolic interpretivists view organisations as an entity constructed mutually by members through symbolic interaction. Lastly, postmodernists claims that there is no such a thing as an objective reality and that reality is just an ‘illusion’. The language and discourse people use will shape what they see and feel, providing us the understanding that we use to make sense of the world and creating a multiplicity of ways to look at things.
For epistemology, the modernist perspective states that objective reality can be measured through hard science or technical measurements where ‘truth’ can be empirically tested to confirm its validity. For example air exists independently of us even if we can’t see it but it can be measured through our other senses of smell and touch and also scientific measures like pressure and volume. The symbolic interpretivists however suggests that ‘truth’ can only be understood in the point of view of only involved individuals, such that their shared truth is socially constructed via multiple interpretations which can change over time (Hatch & Cunliffe 2006). An example would be that an impression of the organisation by one employee might relate to another employee supposing that both employees had good and bad experiences together. Postmodernists on the other hand suggest that the world is constituted by our shared language and that we can only know the ‘truth’ through the particular forms of discourse our language creates. Postmodernists seek to shun exclusions and repressions underpinning the modernists’ claims to singular objective representation (Boisot & Mckelvey 2010). Deconstruction as a method also helps to remove the grasp that language and discourses has over the ‘truth’ and paves the way for new thinking.
Differences in the three perspectives on organisational social structure To the modernist, organisations have a clear structure, a rational sense of order, stability, clear lines of authority and accountability that allows them to be efficient and effective. Mintzberg...
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