Morgan, G 1997, ‘Mechanization takes command
Morgan, G 1997, ‘Mechanization takes command:
organizations as machines’ in Images of organization,
Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California, pp.11-
Excerpt from Morgan, G. (2006) Images of Organisation Sage, London.
The book from which this chapter came is one of the best selling and widely read academic books on management of all time. The book itself is structured around a series of ‘images’ (or metaphors) of organisations. This chapter focuses upon the ‘machine metaphor’ which is a way of viewing organisations as if they were like machines: ordered, controlled, unemotional, regimented systems. This mode of thinking about organisations, according to Morgan, has long dominated management thought and practice, particularly around issues of structure and strategy, with both some productive and some highly negative results. This chapter is a useful place, therefore, from which to begin to reflect upon the meta-issues that surround and inform discussions of strategy and structure in organisations.
1. What is the main argument of this chapter and how is the work structured to develop this argument?
2. Why is the ‘management observation checklist’ from a fast food restaurant (p. 14), an example of a mechanistic approach to organization?
3. Considering Frederick the Great’s reorganisation of the army:
a. What problem was Frederick trying to overcome?
b. How did he reorganise the army to overcome this?
c. Why was this an example of a mechanistic approach to organisation?
4. In discussing Classical Management Theory, Morgan (2006: 18) writes that:
‘When an engineer designs a machine the task it to define a network of interdependent parts arranged in a specific sequence and anchored by precisely defined points of resistance and rigidity. The classical theorists were attempting to achieve a similar design in their approach to organization’
a. Explain how this relates to hierarchical organisational structures, as depicted in organisational charts.
b. What might the pervasiveness of such organisational charts in modern organisations tell us about the prevalence of mechanistic thinking today?
5. Morgan (2006) argues that Taylorism and Fordism, two concepts we have explored before, are clear examples of mechanistic approaches to organisation. Explain this argument.
6. On page 25, Morgan (2006) asserts that Taylorism was ‘part of a much broader social trend involving the mechanization of life generally’. Explain this intriguing argument and illustrate it with reference to several areas of everyday life today.
7. What, according to Morgan, are the strengths and weaknesses of a mechanistic view of organisations?
8. Finally, explain the following quote:
‘Much of the apathy, carelessness, and lack of pride so often encountered in the modern workplace is thus not coincidental: it is fostered by the mechanistic approach.’ (Morgan 2006: 30)