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Palace and Tent - The St Gallen Group INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization


Palace and Tent - The St Gallen Group INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization


Central to this perspective is a tension between preserving and developing. The two main dimensions are:
1. Efficiency - Effectiveness.
2. Established organizations - Temporary organizations.

Efficiency: The task is to reach the goal by using a minimum of resources, in the quickest and most rational way possible. As a rule, this involves making work more routine in nature; it also involves heavily programmed tasks, narrow limits for what is allowed, well-drilled procedures and routines, and a relatively inflexible organizational structure.

Effectiveness: The task here is to reach the goal as quickly as possible, even if this entails more costs than necessary. The principle is that 'structure follows strategy'. This principle works best in dynamic situations or where development is associated with high risks. As the individual enjoys a large measure of freedom, this often leads to overlapping assignments; but it also implies great flexibility.

Established organizations: These are organizations that are established, without a mandate limited in time, for the purpose of resolving a specific set of tasks. The energy is thus directed toward resolving these established tasks.

Temporary organizations: These are organizations that have been given the task of solving one or more specific problems; they know at the outset that their mandate is limited in time. The organization might be a 'project organization', one in which the need for communication and co-operation is acute. For this reason it seeks to develop a flexible interdisciplinary team in order to resolve problems in the best way possible. 'Palace and Tent' displays the pattern shown in Figure 2.4:

Figure 2.4 'Palace and Tent' - The St Gallen Group INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization

The Palace is a stable organization that has institutionalized an effective solution to routine tasks, an organization that is well suited to a stable, gradually developing world. The theoretical underpinnings are derived from classical organizational theory (e.g. Taylor).

The Tent is an organization that survives in a rapidly changing world. As such, it is flexible, adaptable, quick-witted, and capable of learning. Hedberg et al. originally developed The Tent Concept' (Hedberg et al. 1976). They feel that 'the tent' should be continually concerned with strategies of change - they even go so far as to suggest that the structure itself can also be regarded as a process. Gomez and Zimmermann describe a number of related theories (e.g. adaptive organizations, adhocracy, informational-technological structures, etc.), all of which in some measure justify the benefits of'the Tent'.

Palace and Tent - The St Gallen Group INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization
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Peter M. Senge - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization


Peter M. Senge - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization


Peter M. Senge

With his book The Fifth Discipline - The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter M. Senge introduced a new integrated theory of the 'learning organization' (Senge 1990). His main perspective belongs to the humanistic perspective; however, he does go beyond it.

Senge introduces a systemic perspective on organizations. He is particularly concerned about the fact that the reason it is hard for us to understand how organizations live is because we are bound by our established 'mental images', and because we do not understand the long-term effects of what takes place in a social system. Our understanding is only partial, and we often misinterpret events because organizations rarely conduct themselves 'logically' in the short term.

Thus Senge also lays down a challenge to the contingency theoreticians, whose concern is about organizations reacting to short-term market variations. Senge feels that organizations, naturally, depend on their environment, but that 'the environment' is neither an unambiguous concept, nor does it react unambiguously - nor does it distinguish clearly between short-term and long-term needs.

Senge mentions five 'disciplines' as being essential to understanding organizations:

1. Systemic thinking, which for Senge is the key discipline. It helps us understand things in context, to understand the whole pattern and not just bits of the whole, and on this basis to sway organizations in the direction of meaningful changes.

2. Personal mastery, which is the learning process that continually seeks 'to clarify and broaden our personal vision, focus our energy, develop patience, and take an objective look at reality' (Senge 1990, p. 7). Senge sees a deep, personal learning process on the part of the individual organizational member as a prerequisite for a sound organization.

3. Mental models, or 'images' are deeply established conceptions, generalizations, hypotheses and assumptions that every one of us has and that colour our understanding of the world in which we live. They exert a strong influence on us and can often hinder us, for example, in choosing new, promising alternatives because our impressions serve as mental blocks. For Senge, common planning and development is a crucial learning process in sound organizations.

4. Development of a common vision, or the process that draws 'images' and experiences together into an integrated process toward a common image of 'why we are all here', is absolutely essential to the success of an organization, as Senge sees it. No facile 'Five-step rule' will beget such a vision, only long-term common development work carried out in an atmosphere of openness and transparency.

5. Team learning (or dialogue) is closely related to the previous discipline; but it has a deeper meaning as well. It concerns the general learning situation in an organization in which members succeed in laying aside their own mental images and 'think together'. The Greek term dia-logos signifies a free exchange of opinions in group work, which enables the group to discover new insight that no individual acting alone could achieve; and this is the process that Senge has in mind.

Senge stresses that this 'fifth' (here, the first) and most important discipline is sys-temic thinking. This discipline helps us to integrate the others so that they will not be relegated to a 'life of their own', so to speak, and become mere gimmicks. Nowadays it has become popular to talk about the need for a 'vision', but often this winds up being some flashy image without any deeper meaning for the employees. Often, teamwork is looked upon as a goal in itself; the result is often an inconsequential and unproductive process that does no one any good at all. It is important to Senge how individuals see themselves, likewise that these same individuals experience their organization as a place where they can continuously find out how to create their own reality.

This is why the concept metanoia occupies such a central place in Senge's theory. This is a Greek word that means 'fundamental change', or close to what we might call 'conversion' - i.e. a completely new way of perceiving oneself and the world. In the deepest sense of the word, this is what Senge believes learning really is: a fundamental means of 'recreating ourselves'.

Then what exactly does Senge mean by 'systemic thinking'?
He has come up with a number of laws' meant to serve as rules of thumb for systemic thinking in organizations:

1. The problems of today stem from the 'solutions' of yesterday.
2. The harder you push and the more you try, the harder the system pushes back.
3. The situation often gets better before it gets worse (for example, giving food to the hungry does not help them become self-sufficient in agriculture).
4. 'More of the same' brings us right back to where we started.
5. The cure can be worse than the illness.
6. Quick action means slow or delayed solutions (the quickest method is not always the optimal one).
7. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space (thus it is often difficult to understand cause and effect).
8. Minor change can often have major consequences; but it is often unclear where it pays to expend the most effort.
9. You might 'have your cake and eat it too', but not necessarily all at once.
10. To split an elephant down the middle does not necessarily yield two small elephants (living organizations have integrity, and their character is a function of the whole).
11. No one is to blame.

Senge shows us that organizations react on the basis of how processes affect the whole - in both the long run and the short run. Without a deeper understanding of an organization's culture and systemic conditions, there is a major risk that 'development', instead of working as planned, will prove self-defeating.

In contrast to Mintzberg, Senge reflects a basically carefully considered humanistic perspective. His contributions also have great significance for our own thinking about strategies for renewal in organizations. But above all, his perspective is important for school improvement - not only because it explains why organizational learning is 'required knowledge' for the coming generation, but also because the schools themselves have much to learn from Senge if they are going to realize these principles for a learning generation.

Peter M. Senge - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization
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Mintzberg - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization

Mintzberg - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization


5. INTEGRATED THEORIES

In recent years a number of new 'organizational theories' have appeared on the scene. The following scientists, among others, have rendered significant contributions to the study of organizations: Henry Mintzberg from McGill University in Canada, Peter M. Senge from MIT's Sloan School of Management in the United States, and Peter Gomez from Hochschule St Gallen in Switzerland (cf Mintzberg 1991, Senge 1990, Gomez and Zimmermann 1992).

While Senge has come up with one specific systematic perspective of organizations and developed his theory of 'the learning organization', both Mintzberg and Gomez take a broader approach. The fact that I still choose to present Senge in this context (and not under the humanistic perspective) is because his thinking goes deeper and encompasses more than one specific perspective.

Mintzberg

Mintzberg's point of departure is that all organizations are influenced by both internal and external forces, and that a balance between them is essential for achieving effectiveness in any given situation. There is no one way of achieving this effectiveness, but many.

But Mintzberg goes beyond the 'contingency theoreticians' (see above), who virtually claim that 'it all depends' on the situation in each case, without stating clearly what effect various remedies might have in given situations. Mintzberg attempts to clarify which strategies are best for developing an organization, what makes an organization outstanding when it counts, and what it takes to maintain and perpetuate an organization that is already functioning well.

In Mintzberg's first works, the concept of'configuration' played an important role. He sought to group organizations according to specific patterns, each 'form' being effective for its particular purpose. Later, however, he discovered that a number of very effective organizations did not fit into these patterns of his. Today he prefers working with concepts such as 'forces' and 'forms'.

He feels that most of what goes on in organizations can be understood as an interaction between seven different forces (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Mintzberg: A system of forces in an organization

1. Leadership or direction: Gives us an indication of where an organization as a whole is headed. Without such a 'strategic vision', it is difficult to get every part of an organization to move in tandem.

2. Efficiency: Seeks to optimize the relationship between cost and results. All organizations, apart from the most shielded ones, have to be concerned about their productivity, which often leads to cutbacks.

3. Proficiency: Involves the performance of tasks with a high level of knowledge and skills. Without academic expertise, most organizations would not survive.

4. Concentration: Certain parts of an organization concentrate on serving specific markets. Without this kind of specialization it would be difficult to manage complex organizations.

5. Innovation: Makes it possible for an organization to discover and develop new methods, services and products for its customers and for itself.

6. Co-operation: Seeks to find and utilize a common ideology for the purpose of moving together. By Ideology', Mintzberg means more than an organization's culture in the traditional sense. His use of the term includes such concepts as norms, traditions, conviction and values. For Mintzberg, these factors are valuable energy, and serve as 'glue' in the organization.

7. Competition: As opposed to co-operation, organizations are also up against competition - or what Mintzberg calls 'polities': and 'each to his own' attitude, the fact that competing interests are vying for power, often by means of unacceptable or illegitimate attitudes and behaviour.

Mintzberg's theory states that all these seven forces are potentially active in every organization. If one of these forces is allowed to predominate, in time a unified form will take shape, which he describes as a configuration. If an organization develops in a lopsided fashion according to one particular pattern, this will have the effect of repressing other vital forces in that organization. The danger is lopsided dominance and what Mintzberg chooses to call contamination.

Where no single force predominates, organizations will function as a combination of forces that are in equilibrium. Such a pattern can easily lead to division. Both contamination and division call for management that can successfully cope with disparities. Then what Mintzberg calls 'the catalytic forces', co-operation and competition, play an important role. However, these are contrasting forces, and in an effective organization these must be in balance. Regardless of the form (or 'configuration'), the balancing offerees remains the basic issue.

Configuration

By a given 'form', Mintzberg means an organization that is consistent and integrated. This is an organization in which everything 'fits together', as it were. There is no single form that is effective for every purpose in all organizations. There are a number of forms, each with their own special features:

1. The entrepreneurial form: Appears when 'management and direction' predominate in an organization, usually when a manager plays a decisive and dominant role. This often happens in the start-up phase, when a strong vision and a strong leader are often essential before an organization can really start moving.

2. The machine form: Appears when the demand for efficiency and productivity is important. This form is typical of large manufacturing or service companies, and for organizations with a strong need for control.

3. The professional form: Usually develops when proficiency and academic quality are the predominant forces - as, for example, in hospitals and high-tech companies. The tendency is to extend the existing base of knowledge and methods, instead of developing new ones. Established, high-skill procedures predominate and make it possible for individual professionals to enjoy a considerable measure of freedom with respect to their colleagues.

4. The 'Adhocracy': Created in response to the need for innovation. In this form, as well, we have a team of professionals, but because they are underpressure to constantly be creating something new, they usually work in teams on a cross-platform, interdisciplinary basis. Something new is always being created - either in-house or in close co-operation with customers.

5. The 'diversified' form: Present when the need for concentrating on specific products and services becomes so pressing that these must be developed and handled separately. Such organizations are characterized first by a significant degree of delegating, and second by 'divisionalism'. Each department is given a large measure of autonomy, governed by norms and guidelines laid down by a small, centralized staff.

Mintzberg also regards 'ideology' and 'polities' as forces which, in certain cases, can dominate an organizational form. In this connection he mentions the Israeli kibbutzes as an example of a type of form that is ideology-based.

None of these forms exist in a 'pure' state; there are, however, a number of examples of organizations that share features with a certain form. Mintzberg compares having a form with having a personality. Without a 'form', any organization will experience a crisis of identity. The fact that an organization has a certain form is effective as long as the situation is static; but as soon as dynamic changes begin to take place, an established form will inevitably become ineffective - it is just a question of time.

When a specific form predominates to the exclusion or detriment of other forces, or when an organization does not react adequately to external changes, the seeds of self-destruction are sown. A 'machine organization' might be unable to renew itself because innovative forces have been consistently quelled.

Professionals can wind up dominating things without taking sufficient account of the issue of productivity - and do so to such an extent that their organization ultimately strangles to death. An entrepreneur can wind up exploiting his own organization to go on an ego trip. A divisionalized organization in which common values play a minor role easily breaks apart. Likewise, an ad hoc organization that is incapable of exploiting the potential for innovation (before it develops something new) will not be able to survive.

An organization cannot, in other words, be effective in a 'pure' form unless it is kept in check by other forces in the organization (Mintzberg calls this 'containment').

In those cases where it is possible to have a 'pure' form, this is just fine; but most organizations, instead, have to cope with competing forces. Naturally, an orchestra requires a high professional standard for its players, but it also needs clear-cut, competent leadership. Just as a lopsidedly 'pure' form can easily destroy the equilibrium of an organization and eclipse all other forces, organizations that enjoy a combination of strong forces will often have to resist centrifugal forces that would break up the organization.

Mintzberg claims that most organizations go through several transformations during the course of their lifetime. He exemplifies this and points up the danger of splintering. To manage a divided organization, or one that works with deep and latent divisive tendencies, is a great (and highly relevant) management challenge. Mintzberg points out important aspects of the processes of change that must be taken into account if these periodic transformations are to succeed.

Traditionally, organizations have tried to tackle this challenge in one of two ways: by renewed co-operation or increased competition. In Mintzberg's mental image of an organization (see Figure 2.2), these two forces have been placed in the middle. They have a tendency, not to pull an organization toward some extreme form, but rather to put their stamp upon the organization as a whole. Mintzberg calls these the catalytic forces.

Co-operation is a crucial catalytic force that helps hold an organization together. Whether a co-operative atmosphere is created by a charismatic leader or is the fruit of common efforts, organizations with a highly co-operative culture are able to resolve the structual conflicts inherent in a lopsided form of organization. Mintzberg points out the limitations of co-operation. In the first place, it is difficult to develop a co-operative culture, let alone maintain it once it has been established. Karl Weick once said: 'A culture is not something an organization has; rather, an organization is a culture' (quoted from Kiechel 1984). This is why it is so hard to change organizations.

An ideology of co-operation risks becoming too inward-looking, morbidly preoccupied with itself, and might (directly or indirectly) reject internal criticism that seeks to take a critical look at the company culture. Even though a co-operative culture does make it possible to renew the organization within established norms, it nevertheless resists fundamental change.

Competition represents the force that encourages the individual to pursue his or her own interests (often at the expense of the common good). In other words, competition encourages an organization to move in many directions at once, which would ultimately lead to the death of the organization. However, if an overly assertive ideology has been obstructing fundamental criticism over a long period of time, increased competition can help bring about important and necessary changes in an organization.

Thus it is important that these two forces be kept in equilibrium: co-operation on the one hand, and competition on the other. Both forces are essential: co-operation helps secondary forces to keep a dominant force in check, whereas competition tends to promote confrontation. Mintzberg claims that it is only by striking a happy medium between these two forces that an organization can develop and survive in a dynamic world. Organizations need a sense of direction, true; but they also need a balance.

Mintzberg has tried to integrate several theories within the structural and the political perspectives. It is not clear to what extent the humanistic perspective plays a role in his analysis. The forces 'co-operation' and 'competition' point up the significance of different types of cultures and can thus be said to represent Mintzberg's version of the humanistic perspective. The symbolic perspective, not being explicitly represented, can almost be regarded as an extreme consequence of lopsidedly dominant forces (for example, 'loosely connected systems' can be said to be a version of Mintzberg's 'diversified form' - which can be a positive thing where the market calls for concentration, but which can easily lead to a break-up.) In addition, Mintzberg is very strong on contingency theory.

Another interesting feature of Mintzberg's theory is that it couples open system theory (organizations are completely independent of their market), with the need to understand those internal processes in organizations that are important for determining the type of configuration they have.

Mintzberg - INTEGRATED THEORIES of School Organization
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Loosely coupled systems - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization


Loosely coupled systems - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization


Loosely coupled systems

The idea that organizations are systems that 'stick together' in some rational way, so that changes in one part of the system have consequences for the other parts, has been a fundamental one in system theory. As an alternative, the theory has been put forward that organizations are not as 'tightly knit' as they might seem at first glance; rather, they should be regarded more or less as 'loosely connected'.

Organizations, according to this train of thought, consist of entities, processes, activities, and individuals that are relatively loosely connected (Weick 1980). In other words, what actually takes place in an entity (or is initiated by a single person), is not consistent (according to any predictable theory) with other parts of the organization.

Loosely connected systems go through times when the resources are more plentiful than the requests, times when different initiatives will lead to the same goal. They will also experience a relative lack of co-ordination, very few rules, conscious independence, planned situations where there is no accord, the casual monitoring of activities, and discretionary delegating (Weick 1976).

A common reaction to such a state of affairs is that this must be a sick organization in need of reform. But that is far from certain. It could be that the relative freedom that certain departments in an organization enjoy might help other units adapt to the requirements of their environment while the rest of the organization remains stable. It can also protect the entire organization from collapse. But it can also, of course, impede necessary changes in the organization as a whole, impede vital communication between sections, and protect individuals from criticism by their colleagues.

The important thing to note is that all organizations vary in terms of how closely knit they are. When we realize that this is an important variable, it will help us understand certain features of schools as organizations. And schools have certain features in common with loosely connected organizations. How often does a head teacher take her counselling responsibility seriously and listen to teachers teach? Is what happens, for example, in Norwegian language classes being co-ordinated with what is going on in the social study subjects? Are there are common norms for behaviour? Do committee reports have any practical consequences for what goes on in the classroom? Are experiments spread to other schools?

Most schools are characterized by a number of units (classrooms) that are isolated from each other, by teachers without guidance, by initiatives that have no practical consequences, and by guidelines that are not followed. The question is whether all this is good or bad.

The symbolic perspective gives us a number of new impulses in the understanding of organizations. It raises questions about the meaning behind actions and processes, and helps us draw on a broader range of human behaviour. It also helps us achieve a greater openness, helps us discuss 'what is actually going on', increases our creativity, and helps us be and make use of ourselves to a greater extent than is the case when we are forced to live with the 'party line' about what is happening to us.

The symbolic perspective encourages us to take a fresh look at what we have previously regarded as 'just a bunch of ceremonies' and investigate processes we thought were ineffectual or infelicitous. In my work with developing countries, I have begun to appreciate the significance of the symbolic perspective. I have gradually come to realize that ceremonies are crucial to the identity of the participants, to the legitimizing of their activities, and to the development of a project culture that can be viewed from the perspective of the nation's cultural values. For all these reasons, ceremonies give security and meaning to the participants.

Criticism of the symbolic perspective

The symbolic perspective is the 'youngest' of the four perspectives. Few empirical studies have made use of it as a frame of reference. Clearly we must reckon with the production of studies that differ in nature from the traditional quantifiable studies. Qualitative methods based on a phenomenological perspective will probably prove to be the most fruitful.

The symbolic perspective is, to a lesser extent than the other perspectives, one theory. It unites a number of ideas - relatively loosely connected - and more time is needed before it can be regarded as a fully-fledged perspective. And that is assuming that this is even possible - let alone desirable, in view of what this perspective stands for.

The symbolic perspective contains a dilemma: a symbol can involve a clouding of realities; it can confuse the issue by deliberately being cynical and disingenuous. The myth that a teacher whose formal qualifications are in order is automatically a qualified teacher can, in some cases, result in protecting incompetent teachers and hinder urgent reforms in teacher education.

Another way of using symbols is to look upon them as expressions of true meaning. The symbolic perspective tells us that what we regard as hard facts is, in reality, what people have chosen to create. This gives us hope for the future: we ourselves are able to create a world which, both academically, politically and morally, is in harmony with our innermost values.

Loosely coupled systems - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization
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The Organized Anarchies of School Organization - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization



The Organized Anarchies of School Organization - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization


Organized anarchies

This concept originates from Cohen et al., who applied it to educational institutions (universities) which in their view could hardly be said to act 'rationally'. Another concept that Cohen et al. often use is The Garbage Can Model' - which describes, in their opinion, what really takes place in the decision-making process.

Organized anarchies have the following elements:
1. Ambiguous preferences. Preferences are discovered by acting, instead of people acting on the basis of preferences.
2. Ambiguous technology. Even if an organization manages to survive and even be productive, its own processes are not understood by its own members.
3. Variable participation. Participation varies, both as to time spent and the work expended on different areas (Cohen et al. 1972, p. 2).

Decision-making in organized anarchies is often inconsistent with a well-ordered problem-solving process.

When I read works by March and Olsen, especially their work entitled Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations, I am struck by how 'different' their thoughts are from traditional system theory (March and Olsen 1976). Quite a few axioms are turned on their heads, and the way these authors express themselves forces the reader to make a critical reappraisal of 'rational truths' that many of us thought were sacrosanct.

My guess is that the 'anarchy model' can more readily be applied to institutions of high learning than to pre-college schools. One of the reasons for this is the decentralized form of organization characteristic of universities and the conflicts between a central bureaucratic system and academic preferences - which, in my view, are better expressed at the universities.

The Organized Anarchies of School Organization - The Symbolic Perspective of Organization for School
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Contingency Theory of Organization for School

Contingency Theory of Organization for School


Contingency theory

Contingency theory, like open system theory, is concerned with the relationship between an organization and its environment. To the extent that significant changes 35School Development take place in the environment, this can entail changes in the organization's 'response'. Contingency theoreticians are eclectics - that is, in a given situation they choose solutions based on different theories. There is no one way to organize one's life that is superior to every other in every situation. So too with organizations. The way in which they are built up, the way in which management acts, depends first and foremost on the situation.

An example of this theory is the work that two Scottish scientists, Burns and Stalker, published at the beginning of the 1960s (Burns and Stalker 1961). They found that organizations could be categorized as 'mechanistic' and 'organic', respectively. As shown in Figure 2.1, mechanistic organizations are represented in relatively stable societies. They are complex, with a clear-cut hierarchy where rights and duties are strictly defined. Their tasks are specialized, few have any overall control, power is concentrated at the top, and communication, as a rule, is vertical. These are all features we recognize from Weber's bureaucratic model.

Figure 2.1 Two forms of organizations (according to Burns and Stalker)

Organic organizations usually arise in situations in which there are rapid environmental changes. As a rule, they are relatively small and simple in structure. In organizations of this kind, the goals of individuals are largely accommodated. Power and influence are shared maximally (which leads to a common sense of responsibility for solutions), and communication (both horizontal and vertical) is encouraged. It is thought to be natural that one person can carry out more than one task, there is often an overlapping of roles, and all do their part to make sure that everyone views the organization from an overall perspective.

Burns and Stalker find that an organization's size and the degree of change in the environment are the factors that can explain the justification of the two different organizational forms. In another context, I have pointed out that an organization's tasks also, to a certain extent, determine the form of organization (Dalin 1973). In research and development organizations there will be a greater tendency, for example, toward 'organic forms' than, say, in military units.

Much of the development we see today in organizational development in the schools has 'organic ideals'. This can be seen in such notions as 'the Creativity of the School' (1975) and 'Changing the School Culture' (Dalin and Rolff 1993). hi this con nection it is important to pose questions such as the following: Are the schools autonomous? To what extent are they bound by the goals and ordinances of society?  Who 'owns' the schools? Is the school a 'simple' organization in the Burns and Stalker sense of the term? In other words, is it possible for the school itself to reflect the demands of its environment, and - perhaps even more important - can it choose which demands it will take into account?

The latter is a question of values, as well as a question of politics. Most people would claim that it is not up to the individual school in any society to decide which demands it will relate to: this is decided by the political authorities. In other words, the schools are limited in their freedom. But this does not provide a satisfactory answer to the question that 'contingency theoreticians' are asking. For them, school authorities are but one of the groups that influence the schools and that schools must take into account. If they do not, they will run foul of their environment. Most curricula are so loosely defined that schools can interpret them rather freely. I would suggest that, in many ways, the schools have greater freedom than most other organizations, because they are not dependent on the quality of their results. A firm in the so-called free economy is most likely just as bound in relation to its environment as the schools are, because the market will determine its chances of survival.

Precisely because schools in many ways are so unbound and needn't fear the reprisals of their environment to any large extent, and because management and teachers have power over pupils, a great responsibility - politically, academically, and morally - rests on the adults in school life.

Socio-technical theory

I group this under the structural perspective, even though this placement is not a perfect one. Socio-technical theory derives some of its concepts from system theory; but, as its name implies, this theory also has its roots in the humanistic theory (see below). Representatives of socio-technical theory are Trist and Rice.

Rice developed an open socio-technical theory in which he sought to combine elements from open system theory and humanistic theory (Rice 1963). Rice assumed that every organization has a primary task that it must perform in order to survive. At the same time, to succeed in this, it is crucial that the organization be in a position to offer its members meaningful work. But the members' need for meaningful work must not be allowed to pre-empt the organization's primary task. Thus it becomes a manager's task to create equilibrium in the system, so that both task and human needs are safeguarded. For this to happen, the manager must also be able to 'negotiate' with his environment so that the organization receives the resources it needs for the processes required to produce what that environment expects.

Contingency Theory of Organization for School
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Open System Theory of Organization for School

Open System Theory of Organization for School


Open system theory

This is concerned with the dependency that exists between an organization and its environment. To describe this interaction, it was necessary to move from a static to a dynamic description of organizations. Since the environment is always in a state of flux, there will always be give and take between an organization and its environment. Allport speaks of a 'recurring cycle of events' (Allport 1962). As in nature, according to this perspective there are constantly recurring processes that are necessary for the survival of an organization.

Along with theorists within the humanistic tradition, system theorists claim that it is more expedient to study what actually happens in an organization than to start out with formal goals. Then it is only natural to look at what an organization receives from its environment: input, what it does with its resources: throughput, and what it gives back to the environment: results (output).

Resource factors can be both human and material resources - for example, teachers, pupils, textbooks, buildings, expectations and attitudes; from teachers, pupils, parents, the local community and the community at large, and more general 'structural' influences; and thoughts and ideas promulgated by the mass media.

Throughput in schools has, first and foremost, to do with the teaching process in the classroom. But other activities also take place in the school which can be looked upon as 'supporting processes' to the explicitly instructional work: planning, meeting activity, decision-making, evaluation, development of materials, communication, management, etc. There is practically no limit to all the activities and processes that characterize a school.

Results from a school are characterized, first and foremost, by what the pupils have learned, by the concrete knowledge and skills they have acquired, by those attitudes and norms which the school has helped shape, and by the contribution that the pupils themselves can subsequently make to society. The parents' attitudes toward the schools are also an important result of the schools' work which, in political terms, have significance for the working conditions schools enjoy in society.

There are a number of circumstances about schools as organizations which, in this context, are worthy of note: in most organizations there will be a relationship between what an organization receives (resources) and the quality of its work (results). The schools are practically guaranteed new resources every single year, regardless of what they 'produce'. And precisely because it is of little consequence to the schools whether they function at peak efficiency or not, it is not vital that they accommodate the expectations of their environment. The problems of the pupils rarely pose any real problem for the schools (until such time as these become a disciplinary problem for the classroom teacher).

It can be very difficult to determine whether a school has achieved its goals; likewise, we have very little proven knowledge about learning and instruction. Consequently this can easily be used as an argument to continue current practices and shy away from changes that are challenging. It can also be used as an argument against unsolicited and unwelcome criticism. And when the teachers in a school are labouring under work conditions that practically make it impossible to take any disciplinary action against them (except in cases of gross negligence), it is reasonable to believe that many schools are not all that interested in an open relationship to their environment. A number of scientists have discovered that schools are approaching what we could call 'closed' systems (Carlson 1965).

Open System Theory of Organization for School
School Development - Theories and Strategies [PDF]
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