Structure and sense : a study of organization based on the theories of Weick and Jaques

Thelejane, Molupe (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Informations Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Karl E. Weick’s Theory of Organizational Sensemaking and Elliot Jaques’ Stratified Systems Theory are not often deemed to be complimentary. The generally accepted view is that these two positions represent two poles on a spectrum of organization theory. The thesis attempts to bring these two theories in conversation with one another and argues that organizational sensemaking is enriched in a requisitely structured organization. The essence of stratified systems theory is that all humans have an inherent cognitive potential level of coping with complexity. As people mature they gain the potential to handle the next level complexity jobs. Similarly, jobs have a certain span within which they can or should be successfully mastered. In organizations one can then identify different strata, according to job complexity. A requisitely structured organization uses strata to create a managerial hierarchy. Jaques argues that a hierarchy is not repressive if applied requisitely as people will naturally be drawn to jobs in the strata where they are most effective. Sensemaking on the other hand, is the cognitive ability to impose frames on ongoing flows and so make the world sensible. Normally it is an automatic process, but in organizations the sense made is often fragile and under threat. Sensemaking and management are two mutually interacting activities that influence each other constantly. The type of frame imposed on an object, the interpretation given to events, the plausibility of explanations forwarded and the contextualization of circumstances is dependent on one’s applied cognitive capabilities. It is argued that if there are no discontinuites in cognitive capabilities and if the organization is requisitely structured then sensemaking is enhanced. This argument serves as the bridge between Sensemaking Theory and Stratified Systems Theory. Other links are in pertinent properties that are common to both theories, for example, requisite variety, trust, meetings and leadership, which are fundamental requirements in both theories. While the theories are complementary, there remain some gray areas and some others of contention and these are considered towards the end.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Karl Weick se Teorie oor Organisatoriese Singewing en Elliot Jaques se Stratifiseerde Sisteemteorie word nie gewoonlik as komplimentêr gesien nie. Die algemeen aanvaarde siening is dat die twee teorieë eintlik pole aan weerskante van ‘n teoretiese spektrum is. Die tesis probeer om die twee teorieë met mekaar in gesprek te bring en argumenteer dat organisatoriese singewing in ‘n genoegsaam gestruktureerde organisasie verryk word. Die kern van Stratifiseerde Sisteemteorie is dat alle mense ‘n inherente kognitiewe potensiaal vir kompleksiteitshantering het. Soos mense natuurlik verouder kan hulle potensiaal vergroot word en kan hulle ‘n volgende vlak van kompleksiteit hanteer. In organisasies beteken dit dat verskillende rolle in organisasies verskillende tydsperiodes vereis waarbinne dit suksesvol bemeester kan of behoort te word. In organisasies kan verskillende vlakke op hierdie manier geïdentifiseer word. Volgens Jaques gebruik ‘n genoegsaam gestruktureerde organisasie hierdie vlakke om ‘n hierargiese bestuurstruktuur daar te stel waarmee mense aangewend word op die vlakke waar hulle die effektiefste sal wees. Singewing daarteenoor, is die kognitiewe vermoë om raamwerke op deurlopende vloeie af te dwing. Normaalweg is dit ‘n outomatiese proses, maar in organisasies word singewing dikwels bedreig. Singewing en bestuur is twee aktiwiteite wat mekaar deurlopend beïnvloed. Die soort raam wat op die vloei afgedwing word, die interpretasie van gebeure, die geloofwaardigheid van verduidelikings en die kontekstualisering van omstandighede hang saam met mens se kognitiewe vermoëns. Daar word geargumenteer dat die afwesigheid van diskontinuïteite in kognitiewe vermoëns is en ‘n genoegsaam gestruktureerde organisasie singewing sal bevorder. Op hierdie manier word ‘n brug geslaan tussen Singewingsteorie en Stratifiseerde Sisteemteorie. In die proses word eienskappe wat sentraal staan vir beide teorieë, soos vereiste varieteit, belang van vergaderings, vertroue en leierskap, uitgelig as gedeelde eienskappe tussen die twee toerieë. Laastens word die grys areas en besware bekyk en waar die grense van komplimentariteit tussen die twee teorieë lê.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1544
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