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Images of Organization

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Morgan shows managers how to break free of management fads by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of management metaphors and applying them to organizational life.

520 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1986

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Gareth Morgan

38 books8 followers

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5 stars
316 (32%)
4 stars
359 (37%)
3 stars
208 (21%)
2 stars
69 (7%)
1 star
15 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Clement.
Author 1 book96 followers
December 16, 2013
I can see why this work has become popular among managers, as it prescribes a sort of ideal organisation in which we'd all like to work. Drawing on chaos and complexity theory, Morgan describes organisations that are dynamic, self-organising and adaptive; very much consistent with the idea of a 'learning organisation' developed by Senge. Like this organisational form, I have my doubts about how much of this has actually been proven empirically, and if you look at the peer-reviewed literature, the evidence is pretty weak. The newest edition acknowledges how idealistic this all sounds (more so than the original version), but holds firm on much of the basics. All in all, this is an interesting work with compelling metaphors and analogies, but I think there are very good reasons why the ideal organisational form he prescribes has very weak and limited evidence in the real world, particularly among the public organisations in which a great deal of organisational activity takes place.
15 reviews
February 16, 2009
OK, so I am reading this for school, but I LOVE IT!!!! It's for the Organizational Theory and Change course, and it's been able to give me a framework to explain organizations I have been involved with - how they operate, why and what does / does not make sense. As a disclaimer I fully admit to being a theory nerd.

The book takes a "metaphor lens" approach to looking at organizations to explain how they function and communicate. It looks at the benefits and disadvantages of various approaches, within the context of what an organization does. Through the systems approach, components of an organization can be deconstructed and understood.
Profile Image for Mohammad Mortada.
6 reviews3 followers
January 16, 2021
While the book doesn't tackle traditional business philosophies, it offers a new lens through which you can understand and analyse businesses. The book uses 8 metaphors for this purpose.
For instance, metaphor 1 compares the business to a machine. This metaphor stems or of the philosophies businesses inherited from the industrial age mentality and continues till today. You can observe it in the way job descriptions are written with precise detail to ensure that the 'machine' operates consistently. You can also notice it in the 8-hour shifts that factories used to continue production 24/7 by using three 8-hour shifts. This mentality still found its way into the desk job even though you would find it counterproductive.
Unlike other business books, this one included enough creativity to help me continue reading till the end.
The 4 stars is because the writing doesn't flow well for me because of the ADHD type of citation that tends to pull you in opposite directions.
Profile Image for John Hearn.
22 reviews2 followers
December 21, 2020
This was lent to me by a friend and had to give it back before fully digesting the 8 metaphors it presents. I could see however that it's the kind of book to have on the bookshelf, to pick up from time to time, to refer back to, to generate ideas and reference. Every page is full of insight and, although more than 30 years old, I'd say most of it is totally relevant today.
29 reviews3 followers
September 18, 2011
I was first introduced to Gareth Morgen's images of organization in an introduction course in Organization and Manangement at my first term of a bachelor program in Management. In retrospect I imagine my introduction to this work as a gathering of organizational academics happy for their reunion, passionately discussing organizational theory while opening new bottles of red wine:

-the passion for the subject and their lingual capabilities are reflected in that this work is great litterature.
-the reunion of organizational academics reflects that this is s work of inspiration and perspective widening for the ones that is allready quite familiar with the field. There is not that much room for pedagocial structuring and introducing the ones that is not allready familiar with the scholars and theories presented in this book.
-the work has the form of a academic conversation in the sense that it focus on the subjects that is of interest for the ones present there and then, it does not have a need to make sure it has included all that might should be include or argue why a topic is (not) included.
-the opening of new bottles of red wine reflects that the ideas introduced in this work starts for the traditional, down to earth that is part of any textbook and ends in deary, new thought, that does not mind introducing controversial and far less structures ideas as wore wine is consumed.

I can remember that our first term organization and management course where concluded with an exam case asing us to analyze Mac Donalds on background of the 3 most relevant methafores. It took us some time with puzzeling to conclude that the 3 fairly objective right methafores would be machine, organizm and culture. What we did not fully understand back then was that machine and organizm, with an addition of culture, political system and/or possibly brain is the most central methafores in more or less any practical business case. this is simply the bread and butter content of his work - the rest is facinating, but never the less creme fraiche.

In addition to not being a good choice for an intruduction course in organization, I belive that the following critique is in place:

-What Morgan (and several other scholars using this concept) refers to as the organism methaphore, covers a very wide range of topics with limited things in common. The Human relations school as an anthi-thesis to Scientific Management and the Sosio-technics as some kind of synthesis is one thing. The system approach and OD a school of thinking closer related to corporate strategy. Ant evolution theory is something completely else than the human orienting that he starts out with. Not to wonder this chapter is so much longer than the machine methaphore.

-the mentioned Corporate strategy is a keyword for topics that belong in this book. Mintzberg (as in development of strategic resources not as in structuring in 5's, Ansoff's strategic planning and not to mention Total quality management (and may be business process reengenering) does in dead have their place in this book. I especially miss the flavor that TQM could give to the machine metaphore chapter. I good publisher could identified this shortcomings.

-Especially chapter 7 (Psychological prison) and 8 (change logics) obviously needs to be worked more with. The publisher has simply not made a 100% satisfactory job here. They are among the longest chapters in the book. This is because the material needs to be worked most with, not because they are the most important subjects in the book.

If you have any suspicion that you are interested in Organizational theory - read this book. If you look for a textbook to an introductionary course in Organizational theory - look elsewhere.
14 reviews42 followers
August 3, 2014
In Images of Organizations, Morgan describes how metaphors can be used to describe organizations, which provides a framework for understanding and decision making.

Of the eight metaphors he introduced the machine, organism, and brain were the most useful to me. The machine metaphor reminds me of the main body of the army or an industrial factory. The organization is made up of many parts and people and each has a specific purpose. The disadvantage of an organization that operates like a machine is that its hierarchical structure is rigid and inflexible and creativity and adaptability are not promoted.

The organization as an organism metaphor is useful because it can help explain that organizations are like separate species and that they need to adapt to their environment to survive and thrive.

The Brain metaphor was harder to grasp, because not everyone has the same image of how our brains work. However the idea of learning organizations seems helpful for adaptation and improvement. The Double feedback loop method of questioning assumptions and norms is a valuable tool for any process improvement.

A clear imagine is important when using metaphors and analogies to help make decisions and evaluate behavior, because a picture is worth a thousand words.
Profile Image for Michele.
65 reviews1 follower
April 11, 2009
i hate this book. if you are ever required to buy it for school DO NOT
613 reviews
December 25, 2018
I had to read this for an Organizations and Systems theory class for my Ed.D. Granted, I would not have selected it on my own, but it was an interesting read with many creative, applicable examples. Though an older theoretical text, it, perhaps sadly, is still applicable to organizations of 2018. It sparked lively discussions (well, as lively as my cohort gets) between professionals in various organizations, and for a class that runs on a Wednesday evening, that's about all we could ask for.
The metaphors I'll probably remember the most are the psychic prison with the weird good boob and the ugly face that frankly and depressingly seems everywhere.
Profile Image for Bradley Andrews.
11 reviews
January 13, 2023
This book is a careful analysis of popular philosophical blueprints used to configure the structures and systems of our organizations. Morgan does an exemplary job of exposing the often unacknowledged weaknesses when considering organizations to be “machines,” “family”, “cultures,” “political systems,” or other management heuristics. Masterfully combining theoretical insight with practical suggestions, I recommend this book to any leader courageous enough to put their current ethos under the microscope and expand their lexicon of organizational possibilities.
Profile Image for Robert Bogue.
Author 17 books10 followers
July 21, 2021
Subtly, under our conscious thought, we have models for organizations. The way that we see the organization colors how we interact with it and shapes our thinking. In Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan exposes the different kinds of models that people use for organization and their implications – both positive and negative.

Read more
Profile Image for Jan .
27 reviews5 followers
September 16, 2021
I've read and used this book since it has appeared on the market as it provides a set of useful "lenses", "frames", "mental models" or - my preference - metaphor on ORGANIZING (yes, even the word organization is a metaphor).

If you run into unexplicable situations in changing and organizing: look at the behaviour of people and find their metaphor-in-use (and not the one they say they're using, or espoused).
Profile Image for Allisonperkel.
723 reviews30 followers
September 18, 2018
The first 345 pages of this book really give you the ideas and tools to look at issues from different lenses and see how the metaphors that come into play have far reaching implications beyond the perceived benefits.

This reminds me of a quote - when we design for something, we need to think about what we are designing against and see if we really want to do that.
Profile Image for Gustavo Garcia.
54 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2021
I was forced to read this book by my professor and I am glad (to a certain degree) that she did. The book touches on topics that we sometimes take for granted or do not even consider about organizations. It is a book that I presume when was first released it must have been revolutionary but that nowadays, even if it is still providing important knowledge, it requires an update.
Profile Image for Melanie Ford.
33 reviews
June 20, 2022
One of my favorite course readings I've had for I/O Psychology. Stretches you to think outside the box in considering people's relationships to organizations through the use of metaphors. For example, "the organization as..." a brain, a machine, a psychic prison (think Socrate's cave), an organism, cultures, flux and transformation, etc.
January 3, 2018
Good introduction to metaphor in the context of organizations. Especially helpful if you are practice focused. If you want to understand the deeper backgrounds, refer to Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson.
Profile Image for Dustin Dye.
Author 5 books1 follower
March 16, 2018
Morgan provides compelling metaphors that will change how you see organizations. The book, though, is a bit rambling and has its share of dry passages. I recommend a careful reading of the opening of each chapter, before skipping to the next.
Profile Image for Xavier Shay.
651 reviews82 followers
December 30, 2018
Really interesting perspectives, overall picture not as interesting as the little things I got out of it. It is a text book, so can be a bit of a slog at times. Also couldn't get it on Kindle, so my notes are very poor.
Profile Image for Atulit Singh.
30 reviews10 followers
October 3, 2020
G. Morgan has essentially tried looking at several organizational approaches, thoughts, concepts and theories, old or extant, through lenses borrowed from multiple disciplines. Some perspectives, summed up as metaphors to better understand 'organization'.
Profile Image for Nick.
26 reviews1 follower
March 6, 2021
This book was required reading for one of my doctoral courses. I want to re-read this book. There is a lot of good information in the book. However, we jumped around in the book. In my next read, I want to read it straight through.
Profile Image for Clare Russell.
315 reviews3 followers
January 13, 2022
I love this. It spells out everything I’ve been trying to explain and make happen in my culture role, and why traditional mechanistic models of change just don’t work. Vivid language that evokes the images being described. Quite dated but still relevant
Profile Image for John Fletcher.
225 reviews4 followers
May 24, 2022
Quite an amazing book for those of us that want to learn about how to picture the modern organization - and its not only one picture. Heady but powerful in helping step outside the run-of-the-mill machine paradigm.
Profile Image for Christine Keegan.
67 reviews3 followers
March 11, 2017
Pretty thick, but the idea is brilliant and if you're looking for organization theory, this is about as good as I've read.
Profile Image for Janota.
50 reviews1 follower
June 20, 2022
Bardzo ciekawa pozycja. Niekoniecznie od deski do deski, ale warto - bo daje do myślenia. A zaraz potem ,, Platform socialism" 😅
Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews

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