Use Of Organizational Metaphors

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USE OF ORGANIZATIONAL METAPHORS Use of Organizational Metaphors

Use of Organizational Metaphors


Rapid and fundamental change is now the most pervasive and persistent challenge to organizational leadership. In contexts of change: Although leaders do not and cannot completely control all events, they [can] nevertheless influence how events are seen and understood [by paying] close attention to how their language influences the interpretive frameworks of those around them. Hence the need for a coherent linguistic array (e.g. a vocabulary or set of images) that “frames” what is happening in such a way that it renders change familiar and easily understood. (Baudrillard 2000)

Such an array can also prove a highly useful tool for forming new visions of an organization's goals, for clarifying the direction of change, and for providing helpful suggestions to both management and staff as to how they might facilitate change as well. Unfortunately, the usefulness of such arrays is neither well nor generally understood by organizations' leadership, even though leaders spend up to 70 percent of their time communicating with others, both within and outside the organizational structure. (Trompenaars 1996)

As a consequence, everyone affected by change experiences it as irksome and uncertain. And as it besets any or all aspects of an organization's structure, content or processes across time, change engenders ambiguity, stress, resistance and some loss, regardless of the gain. Fortunately, metaphors are proving to be highly effective linguistic aids in reducing uncertainty, stress and resistance. Creatively employed, they prove informative portents of the future and valuable devices for simplifying the complexities of decision-making under conditions of flux. (Sementelli 2000)

The problem in general

Many mainstream organizational theorists remain motivated by a belief that the bureaucratic organization's greatest contribution is the bringing of order to an otherwise chaotic, confusing and crushingly complex reality. Within the broader rubric of social theories, and contrary to anarchists and critical theorists, organizational theorists appear generally unconvinced that otherwise unorganized people will continuously construct and deconstruct effective means of coping with problems as they arise and pass out of existence. (Palmer 1996)

Rather, they tend to fall back on classical ideas, including that “the purely bureaucratic form of administration is superior to any other form in precision, in stability, in the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability”.

Consequently, they believe that the successful adaptation of organizational forms is a practical necessity for continuing a civilized existence, in effect allowing these forms to help guide human behavior in society. (Burnes 2003)

It is well established that meaningful, sustainable organizational change requires the integration of structural and cultural change. (Miller 1994)

Briefly, humans are understood to have a limited ability to process an organization's information base. It is, in effect, bounded. It is practically impossible to identify all potentially important external forces militating for change or to comprehend the complete set of implications of those that are known. Hence “because of the limits of human intellective capacities in comparison with the complexities of the problems that individuals and organizations face”, the best that organizations can do is to “develop ...
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