Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Organizational Implosion - a Threat to Long-Term Viability

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Organizational Implosion - a Threat to Long-Term Viability

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

When a building implodes, it is demolished from within so that there is an inward collapse. It is destroyed by internally-placed explosive charges that weaken the structural capability of the building. A building implosion occurs in a controlled fashion as a result of planned explosive charges. Stakeholders know when, how, and why the building will implode. When an organization implodes, many of the stakeholders may initially be surprised. However, upon review of the organization in the period leading up to the implosion, it would be evident that there were many demolition charges in place throughout the organization. Perhaps some of these seeds of destruction could exist in the short term. However, in the long term, demolition charges would eventually cause the organization to implode. This article discusses the various types of organizational issues that can function as demolition charges and suggests ways to eradicate them or at least minimize their impact.

UNDERSTANDING ORGANIZATIONAL IMPLOSION

This article identifies organizational implosion as the result of seeds of destruction which can function as demolition charges and cause an organization to implode (i.e., collapse inward). These demolition charges may have been deliberately set, or they may be the result of various inadvertent failures such as systemic problems, malfunction or misalignment of organizational elements, or even lack of timely responses. Bozeman (2013) offers the following definition of organizational implosion: "cases in which organizational members, acting in their official capacities, play a significant role in the havoc wreaked on their organization" (p. 119). He further clarifies organizational implosion as highly disruptive events caused in significant part by organizational members, generally in response to external constraints emanating from the organization's environment and having ongoing extremely negative consequences for the organization and its stakeholders (Bozeman, 2013, p. 125). We take issue with the first definition in that acting in an official capacity is not a requirement for organizational members to play a role in organizational implosion. We also take issue with the latter definition in terms of the requirement of external constraints. While we surmise that implosions can be caused by a variety of organizational elements, we concur that people are the active ingredient that often triggers an implosion. Therefore, we offer leadership, management, work environment, and other potential causes of organizational implosion. Finally, we provide recommendations that will help eliminate the demolition charges when possible and otherwise to minimize their impact.

LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT FAILURES

Organizations are systems, holistic entities which exist to serve specific purposes. The strategic direction and execution are established by people who serve as organizational leaders and managers. However, these same leaders and managers may also put in place (or fail to put in place) items required by the organization for long term success and survival. Allio (2007) suggests that there are bad leaders and that there are strategic and tactical actions that must be taken if they are to improve or be eliminated. He mentions as malefactors Lay and Skilling (Enron), Kozlowski (Tyco), and Ebbers (WorldCom), and he suggests that "Good leaders find strategies that do right by all the stakeholders" (Allio, 2007, p. 12). Sometimes the problem is vision vacuity where the person is focused on day-to-day activities, but has limited or no capability and/or desire to be a visionary. When there is a vacuum in terms of where the organization will be in the future, this nothingness negatively impacts systems and subsystems from the perspective of Purpose, People, Principles, Processes, and Performance as described by Pryor, White and Toombs (1998,2007) as elements of the 5P's Strategic Leadership Model. See Figure 1. …

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