Conceptualizing the dynamics of organizations: foundations for situational analysis

Emanuela Todeva
1997 Leadership & Organization Development Journal  
Introduction Situations have been focus for analysis in different social sciences -sociology, psychology, social psychology, anthropology, economics, politics and management. Most of these scientific disciplines look at situations from a specific perspective and almost all of the authors use the concept 'situation' in its natural language meaning without formulating precise definitions. According to 'Chambers English Dictionary' and 'The Oxford English Dictionary', Situation is a particular
more » ... is a particular relation between the individual (his/her role, position, location, status) and the external to his/her circumstances (conditions, surrounding, relationships with the environment) at a particular time (critical point, coincidence) in reality. According to this interpretation, situations are defined through the concepts individuals, surroundings, relations and time. The dynamic aspect of this complex relationship is introduced not only by the time dimension, but also by the involvement of other agents and institutions as mediators. For work situations these mediators are the organisation and the management system, and their dynamics is visualised in Figure 1 . ENVIRONMENT ORGANISATION INDIVIDUAL MANAGEMENT Figure 1. General model of the organisational system The dynamics of work situations as ever-changing organisation, management, environment and people have challenged social sciences since Taylor. However, the fragmentation of the system has led to the development of numerous theories, approaches, models and explanatory frameworks. This selective fragmentation has already proved unable to grasp the complexity of changes not only in practical but in theoretical terms as well. Most of the organisational theories have focused on the relationship 'individual -environment' and the behavioural effect from the influence of 'objective stimulus', presented as situational factors. The reverse effect that the behaviour has upon the objective stimulus forms an underresearched area. We approached the argument 'determinism vs. choice' from an alternative perspective -a synthesis of determinism and choice, of system thinking and action thinking in dealing with organised social entities. The deterministic orientation is well represented in the Systems approach. However, the categories that are used in research are at different levels of abstraction and usually describe a diverse set of relationships. The research has evolved mainly by including new categories as more significant and replacing others -as non-relevant. The leading theoretical models based on system thinking are: the Aston systemic model (Pugh and Hickson, 1976); the universalistic approach in management (Ritchie, 1993); the technical perspective; the critical perspective; and the technological perspective. (Reed, 1989) The Action approach in contrast, as representing the choice perspective in organisation theory, attempts to look at the dynamic changes in the relationships between individual, organisation, management and environment. The leading models based on action thinking are: the population -ecology model; the institutional model; the resource dependence model; the political perspective. The Action approach is characterised by application of a relativistic logic. The continuous processes of adaptation, re-negotiation and institutionalisation of practices are analysed including the reverse effect of the actions of individuals, determining their surroundings. (For more detailed discussion of the theoretical perspectives, based on system and action thinking, see Todeva, 1994.) 3.C. Characteristics of individual performance and behaviour The relation between individual's behaviour and his/her psychological situation is reversible. Key determinants of individual's behaviour are: motivation, abilities, perception, personality and the organisational systems and resources. (Arnold and Feldman, 1988)
doi:10.1108/01437739710168463 fatcat:sddqdb5q3jdxxhb62va5fsfuhe