The Paradox of Control in Organizations

The Paradox of Control in Organizations

The Paradox of Control in Organizations

The Paradox of Control in Organizations

Synopsis

Adopting the perspective of complex responsive processes, the author takes self-organisation and emergence as central themes in thinking about life in organisations.

Excerpt

This is a remarkable and deeply interesting book for those who seek to understand what really happens in organizations as opposed to "what is supposed to happen." The title suggests that the idea of a manager being "in control" in an organization is a paradox and the book effectively demonstrates that this is true. Philip Streatfield effectively demonstrates that managing even the seemingly "scientific production" of a well known cold remedy cannot be "controlled," in that there is a complex process at its heart that is not fully understood, and that the operators use experientially derived implicit knowledge to run it successfully. Using this example he demonstrates the falsity of traditional management views: that a manager is an objective observer standing outside the process, who intentionally designs the processes. These are predictable, and the manager's job is to reduce variability and waste to produce conformity, by detecting and correcting deviations. His own experiences show that successful management required him to be a participant in group interactions in the production process, responding to often unexpected features in the processes and the human interactions as they occur, and making use of diversity rather than attempting to eliminate it. Different examples follow concerning the "real" as opposed to the "rationalized" path to new product development, companies merging, the measurement of performance and supply chain management. They all reinforce the essential revelation of management as participation in a real time, emergent process, of discovery and meaning making, in which although the organization is not "out of control" exactly, managers are not "in control" of what will happen. They are sharing in the discovery of the emerging situation and developing their views and responses, along with other participants, as they go. The experiences serve to illustrate magnificently the new ideas coming from complex systems thinking, where organizations are seen as complex responsive processes, in an emerging situation with multiple views and perspectives, where learning,

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