While reading dissertations from MIT’s DSpace (Thanks to Richard Hoeg for the link) I followed a reference from Seo & Creed (2002; Academy of Management Review, 27 #2). This is a follow-up on my previous post and shows some reasons why there are multiple ways that disfunctional behavior can be supported in organizations. They discuss four reasons why contradictory impulses can be seen in organizations:
Legitimacy that undermines functional inefficiency: There are certain practices and beliefs that become legitimate and require conformity within organizations or even entire industries. But, these standard practices can be confining to technical practices that need to remain fluid and change according to the context if they are to achieve maximum efficiency. Over time some crystalized organizational structures can hamper practices substantially.
Adaptation that undermines adaptability: This concern is very similar to the previous one except to recognize that many crystalized forms are originally adaptive. In one example they discuss the way individuals develop schemas to deal with complexity, but that they may resist changing that schema even when it is no longer functional.
Intra-institutional conformity that creates inter-institutional incompatibilities: “Organizations tend to incorporate all sorts of incompatible structural elements, practices, and procedures. . .” This can occur because of different competing ideals in society where capitalism, family values, government bureaucracies, liberal democratic ideals and Judeo-Christian traditions can have “contradictory “central logics”.
Isomorphism that conflicts with divergent interests: There are social and power arraignments with divergent interests within any organization. This means that all organizations are political. Politics can often get in the way of function and efficiency.
Ok; So what’s the suggested responce?
Decouple – Allow and explore how individual teams can explore diverse ways to self-organize and decouple from institutional structures and ways of acting.
Praxis – Politically recognize and support teams that are engaged in serving their customers over internal power struggles.