The Metaphors Used with Regard to Organizations Essay

Submitted By zumurada
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Organizations are so complex that we all reach for simpler ways of thinking about them. We look to our life experiences to find entities and approaches in which we identify similarities to organizations. These entities and approaches begin to represent organizations. These metaphors become more than symbols for the organization. Often, when we think of organizations, we use the language and beliefs that are associated with the metaphor. We begin to assume that whatever is true for the metaphor is also true for organization. We are also less likely to consider information that does not fit the metaphor we prefer to use.

There are a number of metaphors commonly in use. People tend to prefer using one or a combination of two or three metaphors. Each metaphor has beliefs, values, words, and behaviors associated with them. Each metaphor leads to a unique set of desired outcomes, types of problems and strengths identified, and recommended action. Each metaphor has environments where it is particularly effective and organizational dynamics and conditions that it just does not see.

Seven of the most commonly used metaphors are: Aristocracy, Serf, Brain, Culture, Machine, Organism, and Political. The Metaphor Instrument measures the preferences people have for these metaphors. The stronger the preference, the more likely that metaphor will influence the observations, decisions, and actions of the individual. The weaker the preference, the less the metaphor will influence the individual.

Aristocracy and Serf Metaphors:

Organizations are similar to the aristocracy/serf relationships. Aristocracy/serf relationships have certain characteristics, such as:

o A small group or class of people control and benefit from the work of a much larger number of people

o There is a clear distinction between those in controlling group and those who are not

o The controlling group expends whatever resources necessary to maintain control by the group

o There appears to be an opportunity for those not in the controlling group to join it due to loyal and/or distinguished service

This metaphor ,when considered by those who identify more with the aristocracy, have certain characteristics:

o Because of capability or class position are ordained to rule

o Those not in the controlling group are expected to fulfill their roles without complaint

o Membership in this ruling group is important

This metaphor, when considered by those who identify more with the serfs, have certain characteristics:

o Individuals seek to join the group in power, join with others to counter the top group's power, or resign themselves to their situation

o Labor, not dedication, is exchanged for money and other rewards

o Life outside of work is much more important than work

Brain Metaphor:

Organizations are assumed to be similar to the brain. Brains have certain characteristics, such as:

o Collect and process information

o Make decisions based on information

o Initiates and processes communication

o Learns from the collected information

o Holographic - all parts contain the capability of the whole

Culture Metaphor:

Organizations are similar to cultures. Cultures have characteristics, such as:

o Values operate as the foundation for the activities and aspirations of the people

o Heroes personify the culture's values and provide tangible role models for individuals

o Ceremonies and rituals tie people together and provide visible and potent examples of what the culture stands for

o Standardized expectations of each other become the norms guiding daily activities

o People identify with and feel a part of a culture

o Cultures endure through generations providing continuity

Machine Metaphor:

Organizations are assumed to be similar to a machine, such as an automobile engine. Machines have certain characteristics, such as:

o Designed to produce