Friday, 23 June 2017

Organisations as Cultures

Gareth Morgan, in his book "Images of Organization" (1998), came up with a range of metaphors - or lenses - which would enable us to identify the type of organisation we were dealing with. His metaphors help us to unlock our organisational culture.

He thought of organisations in a range of metaphors: as machines, organisms, brains, cultures, political systems, Flux and transformation, and, as gruesome as these last two sound, as instruments of domination, and as Psychic Prisons.

What interests me in particular is his model of culture, like a biological culture, is a living system. Morgan describes culture as "an active living phenomenon through which people jointly create and recreate the worlds in which they live" (1998, p. 135).

He suggests that when we want to analyse culture, we ask three questions (p. 141):
  1. "What are the shared frames of reference that make organization possible?
  2. "Where do they come from?
  3. "How are they created, communicated, and sustained?"
They are great questions to ask ourselves.Morgan also suggests that there are four key reasons to use a culture metaphor:
  1. It keeps us thinking about the human side of our organisations, and helps us to see how our surroundings affect us. It allows us greater use of psychology and organics.
  2. It shows the importance of creating shared meaning to align people to meet goals.
  3. It makes both followers and leaders understand the impact of their own behaviour on culture. Morgan says we should ask themselves: "What impact am I having on the social construction of reality in my organization?", and "What can I do to have a different and more positive impact?" (p. 141)
  4. It reminds us that our perceived relationship between the external environment and our organisation can be skewed by our assumptions about ourselves.
Powerful stuff.


  • Morgan, G. (1998) Images of Organization. USA: Sage.
  • Slack, T. (1997). Organization Theory and the Management of Sport Organizations. In Understanding Sport Organizations: The Application of Organization Theory. USA: Human Kinetics. (pp. 9-12)

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