We all know how organizations work. We’ve read the books and magazines, seen the research, and attended the courses. If we’re looking for ways to change, develop, restructure, merge, demerge, turnaround, or otherwise transform the organization for the better, we are spoilt for choice. These - always “new” - ways of working are all neatly packaged, politics-free, and presented as common-sense responses to the challenges that we face. Provided that everyone follows the prescribed programmes, systems, and procedures, we’re assured that the outcomes we’re looking for will come to fruition. Sorted!
Trouble is, this well-ordered, fully aligned view of organization and management practice, with its unfailingly positive results, bears little relationship to the world that managers experience every day.
The straight-line, ‘do this and you’ll get that’ idealizations are far removed from the wiggly reality. Despite this, it’s the former that continue to dominate the ways in which management is spoken about and judged in formal organizational arenas and wider society.
This does nobody any favours – other than, perhaps, those who design, package and sell the supposed ‘solutions’. In particular, it creates unrealistic expectations of what managers can sensibly achieve. This increases pressure on them to conform to this fantasized view of organization and contaminates their day-to-day practice.
Most importantly, it inevitably distorts the ways in which they account formally for their actions. The resulting reports then serve to reinforce the assumptions of scientific rationality, predictability, and control on which the popular rhetoric – if not the reality - of organizational management and leadership practice is based. And so the fantasy continues.