This essay will critically compare the machine and culture metaphors described by Morgan in Images of organization (1996). Metaphors allow you to understand an experience in terms of another looking at identity between two things. This is particularly useful in management as all managers try to behave in a specific way in order to achieve a desirable outcome, so managers have to connect their actions and activities to that outcome through some model or representation of the organizational context in which they work.
Therefore metaphors of organization are often used as the theory is based on implicit images or metaphors that lead us to understand and manage organizations in a particular way. Machines are often used to help to accomplish certain tasks, such as how cars are made to transport us from one location to another. Machinery has revolutionized our way of life, as it possess attractive qualities such as producing high volumes of output in shorter time frames and increased predictability.
People can also control the operations and adjust conditions so that machines run at their most efficient levels. All these qualities have people wonder if organizations can be managed in the same way as machines. This train of thought has lead to the development of the “Machine Metaphor”, this metaphor was developed during the 1800s as part of the industrial revolution when many new business emerged that were based on new technologies and drew people away from the traditional farming and agriculture which was the main producing sector of the economy.
These “machine organizations” all usually share a common characteristic in their theory of management. And it is the clear define work tasks and long lists of rules, which employees must follow that distinguish this from other metaphors. The employees are trained to work just like any constructed machine, each of the tasks are carefully programmed into workers so that they know the exact sequence of their tasks. This machine like approach aims to maximize the efficiency of the organization, so each independent worker can collaborate in a specifically defined sequence.
Machine organisations also looked at conditions that would increase productivity and identify reasons for workers to breakdown in much the same way as you would when trying to improve the efficiency of machinery. By breaking each task into small operations, it minimizes the likelihood of error since every individual knows exactly what their tasks are. The organisation itself is a resemblance of a machine, and the workers are the parts of the machine, made of managers who are the engineers who invented it.
The managers are described, as engineers because the workers every step is well thought out by the management team, so there are guidelines on how, when, and why the workers are doing a specific task. A good example of how managers are compared to engineers often occurs in the fast food industry. The industry requires strict regulations in order to achieve consistency through out each outlet, so even the smallest action like their smile, eye contact, and greeting are programmed to the workers.
However, the main problem with the machine approach is that there is no room for individual creativity. This can often demoralize workers, as it is difficult for them to feel like they are part of the organization as they have hardly any decision-making opportunity. The management does the thinking so workers have no say in how they want to carry out these tasks even if they may have solutions to improve the efficiency of certain tasks.
Many studies have been carried out by management theorists on organizations that work like machines. And Frederick W. Taylor is one of the most recognized theorists as he introduced the scientific methods of management, and just like the theories used by the “machine metaphors” it tried to discover the most efficient working techniques for the work force. This scientific management approach shares the same idea as any machine like organizations as it tries to maximize the efficiency of specialized labour through close supervision.
Management would also define the tasks that workers performed and how they would perform it. Firms believed that managers should do all the thinking relating to the planning and design of work, leaving workers only to implementation. The perfect example of this type of “machine organization” would be Pizza Express. The company was the first and is still the market leader in its sector, and this has been achieved through its’ obsession with control through out each of the outlets and absolute attention to every detail in stores.
This machine like approach ensures that within each Pizza Express outlet, there is a reassuring and predictable nature to each visit. This can only be achieved by brainwashing store managers and workers with the company’s traditional values and operating philosophy through rigorous training programmes. It’s 6000 members of staff play a big role in the predictability element of each visit to a Pizza Express outlet, as there are strict rules and guidelines that they must follow which ensures the best service possible for the customers throughout the 286 stores.
It would be impossible to run Pizza Express restaurants in London and Newcastle and get the pizzas to taste the same without strict guidelines. However, this machine like organization often leads to lack of motivation from employees, but this however is not the case for PizzaExpress as management keeps workers motivated by incentive schemes whereby waiters or waitresses keep their own tips. So how does a company that uses the theory of “Cultural Metaphor ” differ to a company like Pizza Express, a machine metaphor company?
In order to answer this, it is vital to actually define the meaning of culture. According to Elliott Jaques (Organization Theory), ” the culture of the factory is its customary and traditional way of thinking and doing of things, which is shared to a greater or lesser degree by all its member, and which new members must learn, and at least partially accept, in order to be accepted into service in the firm. ” Strong organizational culture therefore can determine the company’s likelihood of success.
However, the most immediate source of external influence on organizational culture is the employee. This is because employees are already influenced by source of cultural institution such as family, friends, community, nation, and education system. This will therefore affect their attitudes, behaviour, and beliefs, so organization must take this into the account and not force employees to change their cultural up bringing but nurture it so it compliments with the organizational culture.
The culture metaphor consists of concepts of work relations between employees and their organization, which is viewed as a collectivity to which employees belong, rather that just a work place. This sense of belonging and strong working relationship will create norms and values within the organizational culture. This is an important part of building a strong cultural identity as values, which are the social goals and standards that help within a culture.
They define what the members of an organization care about, and this provides judgments about the right and the wrongs. However, norms are just are just as important as they provide a set of unwritten rule that allow members to follow, so they know what is expected of them. The combination of norms and values distinguishes one culture from another. A good example of a company with strong organizational culture is the Virgin Company.
If we compare the approaches used by Pizza Express and Virgin as a whole, we can instantly recognize the difference in management approach. This is because of the difference in the nature of the business and the expectation from customers. One of the most influential writers for organizational culture is Schein, who developed an influential theory of organizational theory. He believes that culture exists on three levels: on the surface is the artifact, underneath artifacts lie values and behavioral norms, and at the deepest level are the beliefs and assumptions.