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The paper provides a detailed discussion on organizational theory and its perspectives. For this purpose a detail study of National Union of Journalist is carried out. This paper utilizes the modern and postmodern perspectives in the diagnosis of the National Union of Journalist (NUJ). Organizational theory provides an understanding of structure and functioning of an organization. It also gives an insight of behavior of teams and individuals in those teams. Organizational theory provides numerous theories and models in order to explain how organizations perform and function. The basic purpose of organizational theory is to understand the structure of an organization so that changes can be made in the design of organizations to make them more efficient, effective and accountable.
In the last 100 years, organization theory has evolved as a unique social science subject. This science intends to explain and depict the working of an organization. Different perspectives of the organization theory and the importance of the theory itself highlight the need to study this social science.
"Organization theory deals with the formal structure, internal working, and external environment of complex human behavior within organizations. As a field spanning several disciplines, it prescribes how work and workers out to be organized and attempts to explain the actual consequences of organizational behavior (including individual behavior) on work done and on the organization itself."(Gordon and Milkavoich, 147). Work has been done on organizational theory and it has been developing for centuries. The motivation factors behind the expected output of workers, the effect of environment and external and internal change on efficiency has been researched through this theory.
Organization theory focuses on organizations and is more related to structures, systems and processes of organizations. The term 'organization' means that some form of structure is intact and things are done in a proper fashion. Individuals in organizations organize their actions to perform task to achieve goals of the organization. Organizations can be small or large corporations, family owned or multinational, public or private. When organizations can not deliver the expected service or quality service or product, it implies that the organization is not functioning properly.
The importance of organizational theory can not be overlooked. Organizational theory can provide actual comparisons rather than experimental comparisons in laboratories for psychological studies of humans (e.g. study of factors affecting motivation). Most of the theories of organizational theory are based on the actual study of the practices of the organizations. Organizational theories are essentially used by the managers in dividing the work among the employees, integration and coordination of work among the departments and developing and fostering a culture that promotes an environment of working together to achieve organizational objectives. Organizational theory facilitates in performing all these tasks in an efficient and effective way.
Organizational theory provides numerous theories and tools that can be used by managers to identify problems in their organizational structure and working and provide with remedial actions to enable them to function more effectively. Unproductive and ineffective structure can result in low output and inefficiency. This in turn results low self esteem in employees.
The potential beneficiaries of organizational theories are not only the organizations and managers but also the individual employees. Organizational theory basically aims to meet the needs and solve the identified concerns of the managers.
The evolution of organization theory is greatly attributed to the need of the managers to have hypothetically best designs and frameworks that can be used to achieve a visible advantage over the competitors.
It is responsibility of the managers to get the tasks done in the required manner by the employees. If this is not so, they need to personally involve themselves and use their influence to make employees do things in the required fashion. Of course, some prior knowledge and theoretical explanation of the situation is required. It is typically believed that employees are generally compliant of the orders but have the tendency to be headstrong and that managers have excellent knowledge and skills to give a better understanding of the needs of the organization and the precedence of tasks that need to be done. Optimistically the intervention of the manager's result into the required changes in the behavior of the employees to produces the required results. Consequently, most of the theories developed are intended to assist managers in designing and improving the functioning and practices adopted by the organization to perform the tasks. Mostly organization theory deals with the definition of the expected behavior of the employees or individuals working in the organization. But along with that organization theories help the managers exercise their power in a efficient and effective way through analyzing the processes.
This paper is divided into six sections. Section one gives an introduction of organizational theory. Section two gives an introduction of the organization under observation that is National Union of Journalist (NUJ) of United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Section three gives the perspectives of organization theory and gives analysis in context of NUJ. Section four discusses the methods used for research. Section five gives the variables of organization effectiveness of NUJ and section six gives the concluding remarks.
2. Background of the Organization
Modern organizations play a pervasive role in the society. In today's world, we live in an organized society in which almost everything is accomplished in an organizational context. The National Union of Journalist (NUJ) was formed in 1907 as a trade union for journalists in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. NUJ is among the biggest and best established journalists' union in the world with 38,000 members. These members cover the whole range of editorial work, staff and freelance, writers and reporters, editors and sub-editors, photographers and illustrators, working in broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, and books on the internet and in public relations. This union is organized in workplaces, towns and cities all over the UK, Ireland and parts of continental Europe (National Union of Journalist, 2010).
As a proactive organization, the National Union of Journalist strived to improve the pay and conditions of its members, promoting and protecting media freedom, professionalism and ethical standards in all media. The union's structure is democratic and its supreme decision-making body is its Annual Delegate Meeting, a gathering of elected delegates from all branches across the UK, Ireland and Europe.
National Union of Journalist is an active organization with members taking part in campaigning, negotiating and seeking to ensure that journalist are properly rewarded for their skilled work and accomplishment. For several years, NUJ has held on to values through war and peace, boom times and recessions (National Union of Journalist, 2010).
The NUJ works in accordance with the highest professional standards in journalism and strictly follows the union's Code of Conduct. The Code, that was first defined in1936, sets out the basic principles of responsible independent journalism and has been the model for numerous other journalists' codes. All members agree to uphold its terms when they join the union.
3. Perspective Selection
Modernism is the organization theory that assumes the existence of objective knowledge that defines the ways in which things occur. It perceived the organizational environment as an entity, external to the organization, which provides the organization resources while abstracting products and services from them (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2006, p. 62). Stability, homogeneity, predictability and control are the basic characteristics of a modern organization.
Modernism perspective believes in globalization. Modern organizations give a completely new perspective and understanding on the working of an organization. Modern organizations have clearly defined centers of authority which ensures that the organization is fair and impartial. The decisions are based on reasoning and logic.
The modernist approach implies that a balanced and logical approach is important for efficient and effective delivery of services or products by an organization. According to this theory organization is a system consisting of various subsystems. These subsystems are joined together to form an organization. From a modern perspective, it is important to have a well defined structure, delegated authority and accountability in order to work efficiently and effectively. Modern perspective advocates bureaucracy. A modern organization is portrayed by a well defined hierarchy, functionality, delegation of authority and responsibility.
In a modernist organization managers have the authority and control. They are responsible for the decision making and maintaining a balance in between the information flows. Managers control and manage all the employees.
Modern perspective is a perfect example of Weber's ideal type of organization. Weber's organization is described by division of labor and authority, properly defined hierarchy, clearly drawn functional specifications, promoting idea of hiring and promotion on purely merit basis.
In organizations with modern perspective, the manner in which the tasks will be carried out is clearly defined. These definitions can be based on experience and data gathered. Hatch and Cunliffe stated that the data which modernists recognize are from the five senses, through what they see, heard, touch, smell and tasted (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006: 15). The system can be set through deductive modes where theories are tested by using practice (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006: 26). Â The rules are defined in a manner that is understood and followed by everyone in the organization and ensures proper and smooth functioning.
The work is divided into smaller tasks and the employees are responsible and accountable for that task. For efficiency and effectiveness, the division of labor and responsibility is an important factor. Also, the accomplishment of the divided tasks should not make the environment instable or unpredictable. The practices adopted for this purpose are either based in own experience of the managers or following the benchmarks.
It is also a manager's duty to accurately define the responsibilities and duties to ensure exact interpretation of the orders and avoid any changes in orders by personal preference or interests. It assures that jobs are described to fulfill the goals and objectives of the organization rather than of the people working in the organization.
The flow of information in a modern organization is strictly from top to bottom and the power resides at the top. This makes the mangers the most powerful authority.
As one of the largest journalists unions in the World, the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) has fought for the rights, pay and conditions of journalists and photographers since 1907. The union has branches across the country and across all media sectors and an extensive training department, to keep journalists and photographers abreast of technological developments. The NUJ is also deeply concerned with the safety of journalists both in the UK and abroad, providing free expert legal advice, professional training, and skilled representation at all levels, national press card, better health and safety, strong support for press freedom, a leading role in the fight for employment rights and support for journalists and photographers (Hodge et al., 2002).
According to this perspective NUJ has clearly defined hierarchy where the main control lies at the top level or with the manager. The decisions are made at the top level. Also the strategies to achieve the organizational objectives are also defined at the top level. The lower level carries out tasks that are already defined to meet the objectives. The information flow is between the top level and lower level. NUJ is viewed as a machine that translates the tasks into the goals according to the modern perspective.
This perspective has certain disadvantages. The stringent line between the decision making body and the body that carries out tasks according to the decisions is a major drawback. As it implies that only the top layer has the power to make decisions and all other levels need to perform tasks to carry out those orders. This makes the flow of information vertical and strictly from top to down which results in wastage of intellectual abilities of the employees at the lower level. The tasks performed are usually repetitive requiring a little use of brain power. The tasks are meant to perform the functionality (i.e. how a certain task is going to be performed, the procedure that needs to be followed to be performed and the activities required to complete these tasks). The internal mechanism consumes most of the time and resources and the focus is on internal system rather than on output. Another drawback is that this perspective assumes that the environment is unchangeable, stable, predictable and controllable. Any change in the environment or any deviation from the standard processes results in failure to deliver. Flow of information requires a lot of time.
Another disadvantage of the modern perspective is that it is not flexible. Modern organizations show little or no response to any unpredictable change in the environment. This is also because of the stringent line drawn between the top managing layer and the lower implementation layers. Managers at the top only have a shallow idea of what is going on inside the organization and the lower layers only know about the tasks that are assigned to them. So one department has no idea of what is going on in the other department and if there is any change in one part of organizations, other parts can not quickly respond to that change. The development of the system is restricted by the inflexibility of the system. The flexibility is showed only in extreme conditions.
Another disadvantage faced by modern organizations is isolation and demotivation of the employees. Modern perspective does not encourage and support individual thinking ideas. Employees are supposed to finish the tasks assigned to them, following the exact procedure defined. This results in wasting the intellectual capabilities of the employee. The incentives are based on productivity.
Also this top down hierarchy exercised by the modern perspective ignores the importance of team interaction and the necessity of a positive social and friendly environment essential for improving the performance.
Postmodern organization theory offers many approaches to the subject of organizations and environments. It sees the organization as having the power and ability to make changes that will affect the environment and bringing awareness to ethical actions of organizations (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006). Postmodernism is a response to modernism. It is a wide spread belief that the idea was identified in 1950 but in reality the term postmodern is being used for almost 100 years not. Arnold Toynbee is considered as the first person who used this term in context with period of time. He used 'post modern age' to denote the post 1875 era. A marked increased in interest in this term was witnessed in 1950s when writers like Rosenberg and White (1957), Mills (1959) and Drucker (1957) used the term 'post modern' world. The concept received both positive and negative views. Drucker (1957) viewed it as a positive step. He hoped that with new technology poverty will be reduced. Mills (1959) criticized the phenomenon and speculated that it will reduce the freedom of individuals.
The postmodern organization is an organization consisting of teams that are diverse, self-managed, self-controlled and self disciplined. There is a high flow of information and the employees are empowered. Diversity is the strength of post modern organizations. There is no defined hierarchy in postmodern organizations. Post modern organizations promote diversity; encourage tolerance, supports creativity and collaboration.
Postmodern organizations believe in teamwork, cross-training, multi tasking, job exchange and outsourcing. Information flow is carried out in all possible directions through technology. This gives the required flexibility to the organization. Decentralization is the key feature of postmodern organizations, as it gives more responsibility and authority to the employees rather than only to the managers.
Postmodern organizations do not have predefined boundaries. This can be determined by noting the increase in the numbers of groups, networks, joint ventures among different organizations.
The postmodern perspective is characterized by the increase in number of layoffs. This results in job insecurity and increased job competition.
National Union of Journalist has showed progress politically and socially and its condition has predominantly changed due to its modernity and effectiveness. According to Keeble (2008), almost all the campaigns started by the NUJ were proved to be efficient and long lasting. NUJ acquired its desired objectives by providing its members with the basic rights like the wages were balanced among the members by condemning minimum wage abuses and giving responsibility to every one. NUJ employees understand that they are individually responsible for the success of the organization. This is an important feature of postmodern organizations. In a post modern organization every single employee is responsible for the success. For this purpose employees need to understand the goals and objectives of the organization and perform tasks accordingly. This also requires strong coordination among the employees. For this purpose sharing of information and knowledge is encouraged. Information flow is not only from top to bottom like in any organization but also from bottom to top and horizontally.
The processes are divided into smaller tasks and the employees are individually responsible for carrying out those tasks and completing them successfully. The sole responsibility on the individual employees rather than on managers increases the stress factor. There is a need for coordinating the actions with the other employees and clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the organization.
NUJ gives flexibility to its members by defining a course of action that is based general guidelines rather than set if rules. Role keeps on changing according to the nature of tasks and roles are not defined by the organization and stated in job description.
NUJ supports continuous learning by providing opportunities to express and share ideas and experiences. This is done by regular meetings where employees are encouraged to share their ideas and experiences.
NUJ supports diversity. The organization not only believes in organizational diversity but also supports causes related to diversity. NUJ has supported diversity and proper representation of minority groups in media by frequently campaigning for equality of all. NUJ's equality council encourages and promotes equality with in NUJ. It opposes all forms of discrimination.
This perspective along with its advantages has some disadvantages. If an organization does not have clearly defined goals, has incompetent leadership and high levels of indiscipline, the adoption of postmodern perspective will results in disaster and chaos, which will result in increased implementation costs.
When workers are individually responsible and accountable for the completion of tasks and output, it creates pressure and stress. This stress might be because of the dead line for deliveries or the quality of the output. This may result in inefficiency of the employee and result in demotivation. Also job insecurity is increased.
As a symbol of victory, NUJ fought for the right of journalist through numerous campaigns. The organization shows the strength of the journalism as compared to the past. NUJ fought has for the truth and the fundamental rights of journalists whether it is concerned with their pay or to release their burden it is serving intensely.
4. Academic Research
The research for this paper on the organization of the National Union of Journalist using two perspectives, previous research and scholarly articles on the topic is used. The previous literature is studied and analyzed in detail. The two perspectives modernism and postmodernism are applied with out any biasness and in exactly the same way as an observer would do it.
As I studied on the practical implementation of the postmodernism and modernism, I noticed the revolutionary variations that occurred with the NUJ which enhance the organization's goodwill. However, the same method would be applied if an academic research is conducted on the organization.
5. Variables of Organization Effectiveness
National Union of Journalist runs several campaigns to promote the success of journalism and also which meet the modern and international standards of famous and modern organizations.
5.1. End of Low Pay
National Union of Journalist developed campaigns for journalists, organizing protests, negotiating for fair pay and acting to improve terms and conditions. This contributed to the increase of trust within its organization members. NUJ also provides an online access to its pay database, allowing journalist us to compare their salary with others using the salary checker survey. It has played an effective role in building trust in the world of journalists.
5.2. Freelance rights
National Union of Journalist organized events for freelance journalists. The main purpose of this event was to create job opportunities for the freelance journalist. This campaign developed a sense of job security.
5.3. License Fee
The NUJ joint force with other media unions to launched a big campaign to save the BBC license fee from attack. The government is considering top-slicing the fee - giving some of it to commercial companies to produce local news. This campaign would develop the sense of security among the journalists and provides them boundaries of law (Keeble, 2008).
5.4. Cutbacks Crises
Keeble (2008) emphasize that media companies across the UK and Ireland are making massive cutbacks as they strive to keep up unrealistic levels of profit. Members of the National Union of Journalists are fighting these short-term measures with negotiations; industrial action, political lobbying, and community campaigns.
5.5. Journalism Matters
The NUJ is ongoing its union wide Journalism Matters movement to endorse the central role of quality content across all media and its vital role in the society. These campaign aims to unite the work of the union and provide the opportunity or the journalists to become united, discuss and solve matters when necessary (National Union of Journalist, 2010).
Quality journalism matters to everyone, not just those working in the industry. The media plays a vital role in society providing citizens with the information necessary on which to make a range of decisions. From local newspapers to specialist magazines, from websites to radio and TV, staffing and budget cuts are undermining that crucial role. Without proper investment into journalism, quality journalism will be a thing of the past.
These two perspectives of organization theory give a detailed insight into the working of organizations following ay of these perspectives. Modern organizations give a completely new perspective and understanding on the working of an organization. Modern organizations have clearly defined centers of authority which ensures that the organization is fair and impartial. The decisions are based on reasoning and logic. This perspective suggests that the efficiency of the organization can be increased. This perspective represents bureaucracy. The organization is viewed in regard with the inputs it requires, the out put it produces and the processes needed to be performed to transform inputs into outputs and the efficiency to perform these tasks. Modern perspective stresses on the formulation of right systems for planning, decision making and control. The main focus is on designing processes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of performing simple tasks.
The disadvantages of modern perspectives are inflexibility, waste of intelligent capabilities of individual workers, isolation, demotivation and low or no knowledge and information sharing. Also modern perspective does not support innovation.
On the other hand postmodern perspective does not have a clearly defined hierarchy and believes in employee empowerment. The postmodern organization is an organization consisting of teams that are diverse, self-managed, self-controlled and self disciplined. Flow of information is continuous and in all possible directions (from top to bottom, bottom to top and horizontally). The employees are empowered in the organizations that adopt post modern perspective of organization theory. There is no clearly defined hierarchy in postmodern organizations. Post modern organizations promote diversity; encourage tolerance, supports creativity and collaboration.
Postmodern organizations believe in teamwork, cross-training, multi tasking, job exchange and outsourcing. Technology is an essential part of postmodern organizations as technology enables the information flow. This gives the required flexibility to the organization. Postmodern organizations promote decentralization. Decentralization gives more responsibility and authority to the employees rather than only to the managers.
In spite of various advantages of adopting the postmodern perspective, this concept still faces some resistance. Mainly this resistance is attributed to lack of complete understanding of this perspective.
Modernist organizations are characterized as rigid, on the other hand postmodern organizations symbolize flexibility. The success of modernist organizations is attributed to technological determinism, while the success of postmodernist organization is attributed on technological choices. In modernist organizations are highly centralized, jobs are isolated and deskilled, on the contrary in postmodernist organizations are highly decentralized and jobs are de-isolated and multi-skilled.
There is a need to combine these two perspectives of the organization theory rather than highlighting the differences, in order to provide more clear understanding of the processes. The pros and cons of one perspective should not be advocated over the other perspective.