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The organization as a political system (1).doc

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Department
Organization Studies
Course
ORGS 2010
Professor
All Professors
Semester
Fall

Description
1THE ORGANIZATION AS A POLITICAL SYSTEMThePoliticalperspectivebringsintosharpfocussomeaspectsoftheorganizationthatareverydifferentfromthoseweseeusingtheStrategicDesignlensWheretheStrategicdesignlensseestheorganizationasasocialsystemdeliberatelyconstructedtoachieveoverarchingstrategicgoalsthePoliticallensseesitasanarenaforcompetitionandconflictamongindividualsgroupsandorganizationalsubunitswhoseinterestsandgoalsdifferandevenclashdramaticallyIntheStrategicDesignperspectivetherootsofanyconflictslieindifferentinformationsourcesanddifferentanalysesofproblemsandopportunitiesmoredataandbetteranalysiscanresolveanydisagreementsthroughasharedrationalitythatisassumedtobegenerallysharedInthePoliticalperspectivetherootsofconflictlieindifferentandcompetinginterestsanddisagreementsrequirepoliticalactionincludingnegotiationcoalitionbuildingandtheexerciseofpowerandinfluenceallrecognizingthatrationalityislocalTheStrategicDesignperspectiveasksWhatistheproblemWhatsolutionisbestsuitedtothestrategicenvironmentandthecapabilitiesoftheorganizationThePoliticalperspectiveasksWhosdefiningtheproblemandwhatgivesthemthepowertodefineitWhosadvocatingwhatsolutionandwhyHowcanIgetanoutcomethatservestheinterestsofmeandmygroupThepoliticalaspectsoforganizationaresimultaneouslythefocusofmuchoftheattentionandevenmoreofthegossipofthoseworkinginandleadingorganizationsandtheleastacceptedWhenpeoplesayThatwasapoliticaldecisiontheyareusuallyimplyingthatitwasabaddecisionmadeonthewrongcriteriaIfdecisionsaretobeeffectivehowevertheymustbepoliticalgooddecisionsaswellasbadTheymusthavethebuyinofthosewhohavethepowertoimplementortoblockactionPowerandinterestscoalitionbuildingandnegotiationconflictandconflictresolutiontheseareessentialaspectsoforganizationallifeIftheformaldesignoftheorganizationistheequivalentoftheskeletonoftheorganizationthepoliticalsystemisthemusculatureItisessentialtoaction1 These materials are the copyright of Professor D Eleanor Westney and she has granted permission for their use in ORGS 2010 at the Schulich School of Business1WhenwethinkofpoliticalsystemsweusuallythinkfirstofpoliticalpartieselectionsgovernmentsandinterestgroupsThekeyelementsofpowerandpoliticshoweverareinterestsconflictcompetitioncoalitionbuildingandnegotiationThesearenotuniquetopoliticalpartiesortogovernmentsbutareessentialelementsofallorganizationsevenofthesmallestandmostegalitarianFormanypeopleincludingmanysuccessfulandpowerfulexecutivespoliticsconstitutesthedarksideoftheorganizationanaspectcreatedbytheselfishnessanddishonestyofothersPlayingpoliticsissomethingotherpeopledoAninabilityoranunwillingnesstodealwiththepoliticalaspectsoforganizationhoweverisaserioushandicapforanyonetryingtotakeeffectiveactioninanorganizationalsettingJeffreyPfefferwhoisoneofthemostwidelyrecognizedcontributorstotheanalysisofpowerandpoliticsinorganizationshasobservedIhaveseenalltoooftenotherwiseintelligentandsuccessfulmanagershaveproblemsbecausetheydidnotrecognizethepoliticalnatureofthesituationorbecausetheywereblindsidedbysomeonewhosepositionandstrengththeyhadnotanticipatedPfeffer199230PfeffersreferencetopositionandstrengthisanotherwayofsayinginterestsandpowerThesearethecoreconceptsofapoliticalperspectiveonorganizationsInterestsrefertowhatpeoplewantwhatsatstakefortheminadecisionorcourseofactionDependingonhowanactionaffectstheirinterestspeoplewillsupportoropposeitandasPfefferpointsoutmanagersoftenrunintotroublebecausetheyfailtorecognizewhatsatstakeforotherunitsorforotherindividualsintheirproposedcourseofactionTheeffectivenessofthesupportoroppositionofothersdependsontheamountandnatureofthepowerheldbythoseunitsorindividualsUnderstandinghowtoleverageinterestsandpowerisanessentialbasefortakingeffectiveactioninorganizationsINTERESTSInthepoliticalperspectiveorganizationalbehaviorisgroundedininterestsThepoliticallensshareswitheconomicsthefundamentalassumptionthatpeopleactrationallytoservetheirowninterestsWherethetwoapproachesdifferisintheiranalysisofinterestsTheclassiceconomicmodelofhomoeconomicuseconomicmanisanindividualactinginhisownpersonalinterestswhichhowevernumerousandvariedtheymaybearereducibletoacommoneconomiccurrencythatallowsthatindividualtocomparetherelativevalueorutilityofmeetingeachinterestThepoliticallensacknowledgestheimportanceofindividualinterestsbutitbroadenstheirscopebeyondwhatcanbecalculatedintermsofsomedollarornetpresentvalueamounttoincludeavarietyofinterestssuchasautonomyandstatusthataredifficulttoreducetoeconomictermsItalsodevotesequalorevengreaterattentiontocollectiveinterests2
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