Organisations As Machines



In line with the industrial age, most organisations have been constructed to operate as ‘machines’. This is a reflection of the modernist society in which they have operated for over 100 years.  During this time our society has valued control, certainty and progress.  To achieve this  we have used science to understand the world by breaking it down into fragments which can be viewed as facts and the objective truth.  Our machine like organisations have been designed with the same values in mind.


When in business, machine like organisations have one fixed over riding purpose.  This is to increase shareholder value.  To achieve this purpose, the machine captures and hoovers up the resources within it’s reach, whether they be natural, human, or financial, and converts these into profit via the production and sales of goods and services.  To continually increase shareholder value the machine needs to create artificial demand which it does through innovation, built-in obsolescence, and appealing to the psychological and emotional needs of its customers.


The more efficiently the machine converts resources into profit, the more shareholder value is increased.  To increase efficiency the machine uses a range of practices such as management by objectives, performance appraisals, key performance indicators, budgeting cycles, strategic planning, change management, etc.  All of these practices also seek to increase predictability and control within the machine.


Many organisations in the public and charitable sectors have also adopted machine like structures and practices, as within the modernist society they are seen as professional and best practice.  Today, we are seeing the emergence of a new society.  It is being called a ‘metamodernist’ society.  In this society, machine organisations are experiencing ever increasing misalignment. Peter F. Drucker once warned that the most dangerous thing in times of change is not change itself, but to operate with yesterday’s logic. To survive and thrive they now  need to adopt more of the structures and practices of ecosystems.  

What are the characteristics of an ecosystem organisation? Read more …

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