Analysis of the Case Oticon Using the Political Metaphor
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The metaphors of organizations and management have been discussed by Gareth Morgan in his book “Images of Organizations” (Morgan, 2006). Morgan exposed eight metaphorical images of organizations including machine, organism, brain, culture, political system, psychic prison, flux and transformation, and instrument of domination. Each one of these metaphors creates insight, but also obscures some corners. They have both pros and cons. They enable seeing, but also not seeing. No one of them is said to be correct and right.
Chattanooga Ice Cream Division is one of three major incorporated industries to CFC, Chattanooga Food Corporation. The division lost third-largest customer for no logical reasons. Charles Moore, the president and general manager of the division conducted a management meeting to discuss current situations, investigate the root causes, and find out proper solutions. Many conflicts occurred during the meeting. The actions and reactions can be projected to reflect how the division functions as one of metaphorical images. In this report, the case is analyzed using the political system metaphor. In other words, it discusses what we could see and reflect when projecting the division’s behavior on the principles and approaches of the political system metaphor.
An organization’s politics is most clearly manifest in the conflicts and power plays that sometimes occupy center stage, and in the countless interpersonal intrigues that provide diversions in the flow of organizational activity. More fundamentally, however, politics occurs on an ongoing basis, often in a way that is invisible to all but those directly involved (Bacharach & Lawler, 2000). There are three relationships to be considered when speaking of organizations the systems of political activities, which are interests, conflict and power (Morgan, 2006). Politics accepts the reality of multilateralism. Therefore, the concept of politics is strongly connected with the diversity of interests. Projecting that on organizations generally, they could be regarded as arenas for reconciling different interests (Culbert & McDonough, 1980). Different interests are natural and must be handled. For that purpose, the general interests are analyzed as individual interests. There are three types of individual interests including task, career, and extramural interests. Task interests are connected with the work once has to perform, while career interests are connected to what the person want to achieve with the work. The extramural interests are connected what we want to achieve as a private self’s. There is a structural diversity of interests in organizations. That could be bounded by two extremes along hierarchical scales, where bureaucrats’ tendency represents the upper part, and professionals’ tendency dominates the lower wide areas (Benson, 1973). When interests collide, conflicts arise.
The political perspective admits the presence of conflicts. There are three major forms of conflicts including, conflicts between person, groups/departments, and value systems/structures (Brown, 1983). There are five main approaches for conflict resolution, including avoiding, competing, accommodating, compromising and collaborating styles (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). Power is the medium through which conflicts are resolved (Bacharach & Lawler, 1980). There are two relevant perspectives of power forms including resources and social relation or dependency. Moreover, there are 14 sources of power. That may involve formal authority; control of scarce resources; use of organizational structure, rules, and regulations; control of decision processes; control of knowledge and information; control of boundaries; ability to cope with uncertainty; control of technology; interpersonal alliances, networks, and control of informal organization; control of counterorganizations; symbolism the management of meaning; gender and the management gender relations; structural factors that define the stages of action; and the power one already has (Morgan, 2006).
When looking through the case of Chattanooga Ice Cream Division, many manifestations and reflection could be analyzed from the political system metaphor perspective. One of the realities that politics accept is that all political systems embrace different interests (Culbert & McDonough, 1980). The meeting Moore conducted reflects this reality as well. As we noticed, many vice presidents of the division’s departments tried to describe and analyze the problem the division experienced in a way that made their departments out of contributing causes. For instance, Billy Fale, the vice president of production, tried to vindicate his department by explaining their huge effort to get inventories manageable despite the limited efficiency the division’s information systems had. Whereas, Stephanie Krane, the division’s controller, blamed the complexity of the information systems that required long time to develop, test, and install. Moreover, for pushing herself away of the causing factors, Krane explained her experience to recover previous troubles. The other vice presidents manipulated the description of the situation so that the possible solutions go in their departments’ favors or interests so to speak. Barry Walkins, the vice president of marketing, attributed the problem to the neglect of his recommendations.
He asked considering mixed-ins in the division’s production plan, basing that on his marketing research. He might be seen as a manager who wanted to record a victory for his way of thinking, researches, or departmental domain. Another reflection could be built on the reaction of Les Holly, the division’s sales manager. He tried to drive the opinions judgmentally. Holly started reflect the root causes of the problem from the sense that the rest of managers didn’t have the wide image he had, since he used to spend most of the time in the stores. He focused on operational deficiencies, such as stockouts and back orders, to make it rational to compensate that with the promotional allowances, regardless any other contributing factors. Moore has accepted the difference of interests of the managers. This is apparent from the way he dealt with their opinions.
He considered all solutions in spite of his acquaintance to the background of motives for each manager. The individual interests could be classified into task interest, career interests, and extramural interests (Culbert & McDonough, 1980). Fale showed his interests of keeping everything under control by rejecting the change Walkins proposed. All his reactions during the meeting seemed to be operational and numerical reflections. That kind of interests could be seen as task interests. The same is to be said for Krane. Her comments reflect her interest of sticking to certainty and not making faults. On the other hand, Holly’s interests may be classified as career interests, as he emphasized on the promotional allowances many times. Perhaps, he wanted to improve his external personal relationships using such allocations. In the same context, we think that Walkin’s interests could be classified as extramural interests, since he wanted to prove his talent of marketing research practically. His proposal was rational and strongly relevant to the problem. He tried to show his loyalty through his honest attempts to make the division changes positively. This way of classification doesn’t necessarily mean that this classification is an absolute matter. All of them may have overlapped interests that belong to each category.
Another common aspect of the political system is conflicts. Conflict will always be
present as long as the interests collide. That may include conflicts between persons, departments, and structures (Coser, 1956). In Chattanooga, the conflict arose between Fale and Walkins were more personal. Walkins criticized Fale’s neglect to his suggestion, and Fale in turn criticized Walkins’ ideas. Both critiques were directed to the personal behaviour. Additionally, Holly criticized the policy concerned with cost reduction at the expense of sales department. The conflict arose between him and Krane could be seen as departmental conflict.
There are five common styles of conflict resolution including avoiding, compromise, competition, accommodation, and collaboration (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). For Chattanooga, and before the age of Charlie Moore, his father led the show entirely. He was the first responsible for almost everything, while Charlie wanted to move the division toward the collaborative style. During the meeting, he gave way for everybody to show their reflections. But they were still unfamiliar with this kind of communication. When conflicts arose, Moore played the role of moderator, which was making sure that everybody would express about their thoughts and opinions fairly. However, he kept the final decision to himself. We find the behaviour Moore showed in conflict resolution is more like the accommodation style.
Power is a very significant actor in the political systems. It is the medium through which
conflicts are resolved. There are 14 sources of power (Morgan, 2006), many of them could be projected on the case. One of that is control of scarce resources including money, material, personnel, and technology (Emerson, 1962). Krane, as the division’s controller, had the control to allocate resources including salaries, expenses, and information systems. She had additional source of power that represents a structural factor that defines the stage of actors (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962, 1970). This source of power came from her being monitored, not only by Moore, but also by Arthur Silver, the chief financial officer. Therefore, she had more considerable power to accept or reject any idea, which interprets her confident reactions during the meeting. Fale, as the vice president of production, had also the power of technology (Child, 1985), boundaries (Millar & Rice, 1967) and resources control (Emerson, 1962). He had also the ability to cope with uncertainties (Hickson et al., 1971). His reflections were central and referral, since he managed the production processes and could judge any suggestion wanted to be implemented.
Fale had additional power of interpersonal alliances (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978), which is represented by his friendship with Frank O’Brien, the vice president of personnel. They used to hang out with each other for fishing. When Frank changed his position during the meeting, Fale became more flexible to adapt with Walkins’ proposal. That reflects a serious impact of interpersonal alliances within the organization (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). Krane and Fale had the power of Moore’s trust in meeting their promises (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962, 1970). In the same context, Walkins had also the power of information and knowledge (Crozier, 1964), which is represented by his acquaintance to the market trends and competitive advantages. Moore admitted his talent and that was also additional credits for Walkins. Being the division’s sales manager, Holly had also the power of knowledge and networking (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978).
He could contribute in the solution by finding new customers. His direct exposure to the market added more power to him. In general and as a management team, all managers had the power of the use of organizational structure, rules, and regulations (Crozier, 1964). But Moore might have the biggest part of power, not only due to him being a general manager, but also as a descendant of the family fully owned the division (Kanter, 1977). He controlled the decision making process completely (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962, 1970). He started that by analyzing the problem. Then, he motivated the managers to share their thoughts. Finally, he ended up with selecting the most efficient solution that might suit the customer orientation and budget.
Even though the organizational politics may be recognizable by everybody within any organization, it is very rare to discuss it openly (Morgan, 2006). The case of Chattanooga shows clear examples of topics discussed privately, as we found when the heads of departments questioned the competence and trustworthiness of each other. As discussed earlier, we can recognize that it is inevitably that politics is essential feature of organizational life. The political metaphor emphasizes that the use of power is central of organizational analysis. The metaphor helps to better understand organizations’ rationality, as it enforces the idea that actions within organizations are more political than rational (Morgan, 2006). In Chattanooga, each manager suggested solutions so that to increase the benefits for his/her department rather than the benefit for the division as a whole. Moreover, the political metaphor helps to find solutions to the idea that organizations are integrated structures, which is not always the case (Morgan, 2006). Moore failed to simply apply the collaborative values of team work in Chattanooga, while that worked successfully when he worked at National Geographic.
The political metaphor focuses on interests, conflicts and sources of power in order to understand and manages them (Morgan, 2006). That also helped Moore to understand the force drivers within the division. Finally, the metaphor has great influence to motivate individuals to act politically. The main drawback of using the political metaphor is fears of converting every activity within organizations into political acts. This may sometimes create atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust (Morgan, 2006). That appears in the Chattanooga case when most of mangers reflected negative impressions about each other. Another limitation is that the generation of insights through different interests maybe misused to achieve personal goals. Last, but not least, it is complex to deal with pluralism’s question. As a result, the political metaphor must be used carefully (Morgan, 2006).
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