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Organization theory is one of the core theories of management theory, focusing on analyzing the organization structure, function and management conduction in the organization, trying to reveal its pattern. As time went by, organization theory also involved, with many new theories appear. In recent years, a new theory of combining organization theory and architecture, especially the sense of space with organization theory emerged, arguing that an organization is very similar like a space, and using special concepts to analyze many organization problem and theory. An organizational space could be considered as simultaneous, and with several features of divided, controlled, imposed, hierarchical, productive, personalized, symbolic and social. The organizational space theory is characteristic in that a correlation of organization with the space of work was drawn, which made it more visual to understand and analyze. However, organization could not be fully analyzed by the concept of space, since it also possesses some features similar to the concept of place. This essay aims to explain and evaluate the claim that organizations are not only spaces, but also places, of work. First, a brief review of the organization theory was provided to discuss some fundamental issue of organization theory. Then analysis on the issue of organization as spaces of work and places of work followed. Last but not least, evaluation on the assumption that organizations are not only spaces of work, but also places of work were evaluated.
Organization theory review
Taylor created the organization theory in the early 20th century, and the first period of organization theory was the classical theory of organization. During the period, capitalist enterprises developed quickly in the United States and Europe, and demanded for management urgently. During this period, the study of organizational theory is divided into three factions: the scientific management, administration management and bureaucracy management.
Taylor was the representative of scientific management, considering the fundamental target for enterprise management was to improve labor productivity. At that time, the development of the capitalist economy in the United States was very fast, and enterprise scale rapidly expanded, but due to production disorder, tense labor relations, a phenomenon of workers skiving was of large amount, leading to inefficient production. Taylor believed that the main reason for the low efficiency was due to enterprises management departments' lack of reasonable quota of work and the workers' lack of scientific guidance. Therefore, it is necessary to apply scientific knowledge and scientific research systems management practices into scientific selection and training of workers, scientific research on the workers' production process and working environment, and then lay out strict regulations and reasonable daily workload, using flexible wages according to difference piecework to adjust the enthusiasm of workers and implementing the principle of managed exception. Taylor created the theory of scientific management system, which was called "Taylorism".
Due to the implementation of the Taylorism, factory management experienced a transition from experience management to scientific management. Taylor considered that the fundamental purpose of the enterprise management is to improve labor productivity and wrote in his book of "scientific management", that the scientific management is the same as labor-saving machines, aiming to improve the yield of each unit of labor. Improving labor productivity aims increase the profits of the enterprise to achieve the goal of maximizing profits. Feature of Taylor's scientific management is that it started from each worker, each tool and every process to design the best position, quota, the best standard operation and the best tool, based on scientific experiment. Taylor's scientific management system was capable of to maximum dig the potential of the workers, and someone had described that in the factory of the implementation of the Taylor system, it is impossible to find an extra worker and each worker was just like a machine and never stopped working.
Like most great management ideas, Taylor's scientific management received great honor, but also caused a great deal of misunderstanding from the outside of world. At this point, Taylor was particularly serious. Back in 1911, the union began to struggle against the Taylor system in an organized manner. The union believed that the Taylor system is modern slavery, a new method for capitalists to exploit the workers, affecting the health of workers and wages to increase the intensity of the work of the workers. Due to the Union strike, the U.S. House of Representatives of the Special Commission of Inquiry began to make investigation on the issue, and Taylor was forced to testify in court for 12 hours within 4 days. (Pfeffer, 1982)
Henry Fayol (1841 ~ 1925), French man, representative of the administration management, who participated early in the management and took the position of senior leadership for a long time. Taylor started from workers, focusing on the specific work of the internal efficiency. The Fayol study started from the desk in front of general manager, taking the enterprise as a whole as the object. He proposed five fundamental functions of management: plan, organize, command, coordinate and control, highlighting the importance of organize. Fayol's organization theory considered that organization could be divided into material organization and social organization. He also proposed a concept of "Fayol bridge", to overcome the information delay due to hierarchy. (Pfeffer, 1982)
Evaluation on organization as spaces of work
"Space has always been a fundamental dimension of living beings and, of course, of the human experience. As a locus of biological survival, psychological existence and sociability, space is a key issue for human organization" (Chanalet, 2006). Chanalet considered that the organization is very similar as the architecture, since it is constituted by people of different order, and
Henri Lefebvre (1991) wrote a book called "The production of space", where he made a discussion on the nature of space: "A comparable approach is called for today, an approach which would analyze not things in space but space itself, with a view to uncovering the social relationships embedded in it. The dominant tendency fragments space and cuts it up into pieces. It enumerates the things, the various objects, the space contains." His argument turned the concept of space into a subject as complex as the concept of philosophy, architecture and work.
An organization is like a space, combined with different departments and people of different position, therefore, the first and fundamental issue of establishing an organization is to divide the organization into different parts, similar in geography and architecture. Considering the traditional theory of organization, the same kind of concept exists, for the case of Taylorism, who provided very detailed job to each worker and no two workers had the same kind of job. Therefore, organization is like space, compound of different parts, staffs as individuals. For the case of Fayol, he lengthened the divide method into the whole organization, considering that the whole organization is also divided into different departments, and like the labor division produced by Taylor, Fayol also took high evaluation on the division of the whole organization to achieve better efficiency.
Nowadays, the most common case of division is the departments in many organizations, including administrative department, financial department, quality control department, sales department, operation department, technology department, maintenance department, human resource department and customer service department. Like the concept of Fayol, who considered that five principle responsibilities of organizations exist, which are realized by different departments of an organization. Among the many departments, some are common in nearly all kinds of organizations, such as the administrative department, financial department, operation and human resource.
The core of management is control, coming from mangers to employees, works, as well as customers. Similar like in a space, at the boundary where monitor is equipped to take control, organizations also have its own control system, in case of accidents which might bring loss to the organization. Control was the core of the theory of Taylor, who thought that control was the only way to achieve high working efficiency among workers, although he over emphasized the concept. In banks, a very important department is the risk control department.
The bank's operational risk management is not only related to procedures and processes within the bank, but also related to the bank's organizational structure, policies, and operational risk management processes. For institutions, the treatment of operational risk should be appropriate for the operational risk policy, managers mush first determine these policy and inform the staff of the entire banking. Several aspects should be considered in this process: first of all, risk manager should have a clear governance structure, understanding to report to whom under what circumstances. (Hernes, 2003) In a typical bank case, there should be a separate credit risk management institutions and a different business in responsible for the management of the day-to-day business, two reporting mechanisms working on day-to-day operations, reporting to the business unit manager; on the credit aspects, risk managers must report to the credit manager. With the risk control system, the most important issue of risk could be effectively located and determined, just like in a space, where the disaster or risk will be identified, and with the divide method, other parts could stay the same without being changed.
In today's commercial organization, the inner control has developed into a new level, not only capable of inner control. The key of inner control is the inner environment control, risk evaluation, activity control, information and communication control and inner monitoring. Therefore, from the similarity with space, the organization's inner control could be consider as the same manner of the inner control of a space, in that the environment control is the control of the whole structure of space, activity control is the control of change of the space, and risk control is the control of developing trend of the space.
The structure of organization is an imposed space, since the substance constituting the organization is imposed to serve as one part of the organization. For example, member of an organization has no choice or little choice on his or her department, which is determined by his capacity of working, rather than his willingness. Substance constituting the space has also no right to choose the existence, which was determined by the designer of a space, for the case of building, the designer is the architect, and for the case of organization, the designer is the creator of the organization or the chief manager who is capable to settle and change the structure of organization.
However, the initial reason of efficiency among organizations lie in the concept of impose, since if freedom was available for each member of the organization, they would not obey the rule of organization, and the overall target of the whole organization as a whole would not be achieved. Different from physical space, where the substance has no thoughts and feelings, members of organization are all humans, therefore forming a social space, and the management approach for the social space should consider the factor of human's response toward impose, and for the case of Taylor, who imposed too much on the workers, but finally caused disruption of the organization.
The most apparent character of organization is its hierarchical character, from the space point of view, a complex building is also compounded of substance of different hierarchy, such as the foundation, support and platform, each playing its role. In an organization, managers are also responsible to take control of the employees, and their KPI lies in the total productivity of the whole organization. Chief managers care more comprehensive issues such as the overall strategy, marketing approach and sales strategy, and send orders to subsector managers to conduct the activity. For the basement employees, for most cases, they only need to conduct a specific of work according to his direct manager, with such hierarchy, the complicated management net could be simplified by a couple of lines of report, that the subordinate employee reports to the superior.
The hierarchical structure is closed related to the division of the organization, similar as a physical space, that the division determines the hierarchy, but since the substance compounding the space is lifeless, without any social problems caused by the hierarchy. Key factors of organization are the sociality after the hierarchy.
The reason for the creation of organization, the foundation of modern management, is the desire to pursue productivity. At the beginning of capitalism, since the technique was not advanced, the issue of productivity was not severe, however, with manufacturing and industry widely spread, the issue of productivity became a key factor limiting the profit of an organization. Therefore, Taylor's organization theory mainly focused on improving productivity. However, the failure of Taylor was because his neglect of the different from organization with pure space organized by machine, since machines could work 24 hours a day, but humans can't. The reason for human to invite so many tools and machines is to take place of human to work and reduce working hours, but Taylor's scientific management system considers workers as the same as machine, which determined his failure from the very beginning. However, the principle of Taylor's theory was right and had been taken as the foundation of management theory, such as the stimulate tool, division and quota.
Many employees are still working full time for employer, however, in many IT company in the Silicon Valley, the office environment was different from traditional office, with more personal factors in it. Many offices in the Silicon Valley are equipped with toys, gym equipment and even service center, making the physical appearance of an organization to look like a personal space, this change is determined by the nature of work, since the work of employees in these high-tech companies are related to creative thinking, which could only be obtained under a personal environment with little pressure coming from the outside. From that aspect, the organizational space could accommodate personal factors, although it is overall a public space.
A combination with physical space and organizational space is the building, and sometimes an area of buildings, and conceptual symbols of an organization also exists, such as the logo, product package and brand, even though no physical space exists for the organization, therefore, organization is more a symbolic concept than real concept of space. Today, many organizations have no regular office, but their business might have developed to many districts all over the world, from that point, space could be accurate to illustrate the condition of an organization, since the space is abstract and could also intangible.
Another issue of organization is its social character, as mentioned above, members of an organization are both humans, machines and even properties, thus the part of human brings the social factor of organization. Form of organization exists everywhere in our lives, from birth to death. In a traditional society, characteristic of a human is influenced by the social environment (family, place of birth, race, religion). In an organized society, personal identity is characterized by their participation in the organization. Therefore, the company is no longer just a place, but a social activity and emotional entity. The company has unintentionally become a provider of personal and collective organizational identity characteristics. This change brings new requirements and new responsibilities to the management. Company employees as well as shareholders usually express their self-awareness through attributing to a particular company or buying the company's stock. Therefore, organization space is not only a physical space, but also a social space with human emotions, and any change will not only change the organization alone, but also the members of the organizations. (Taylor & Spicer, 2007) A good example is the layoff activity in bad economy, which will greatly harm the employees who made a good job but had to leave the organization.
Evaluation on organization as places of work
Agnew (2011) argued that both space and place in the content of geography was used to express the "where" of things, however, space and place demonstrates two different aspects of "where". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, space is regarded largely as a dimension within which matter is located or a grid within which substantive items are contained. For the case of place, it is "a portion of space in which people dwell together". Agnew cited that an Italian geographer Franco Farinelli gave a more accurate definition of place: "Place ... is a part of the terrestrial surface that is not equivalent to any other, that cannot be exchanged with any other without everything changing. Instead with space [place as location] each part can be substituted for another without anything being altered, precisely how when two things that have the same weight are moved from one side of a scale to another without compromising the balance." In short conclusion, the difference between space and place lies in the mobility, since if the location was modified, it could not be considered as the same place, but for the case, as long as the composition did not change, the space stayed the same.
Agnew (2011) further argued that the world has become more and more placeless, such as the container, the Internet and cell phone, which nearly made places obsolete. Anyone could easily get access to any public website through Internet within a couple of seconds, however, on the other side of the Internet, maybe a thousand of miles away, the administrator of the web is staying at him home working with another two geeks placed far away from him to maintain the website. However, as an organization, the organizational space became a more complex issue, and might not exist in real form but in the conceptual area.
Agnew also argues that the simplest meaning of place is either a location or the occupation of a location, and the former issue means having an address, the latter issue means living at the address. Therefore, place is more often associated with the world of the past and space with the world of the present and future. In the Newtonian view, space is absolute, as a own entity itself, independent of whatever objects and events occupy it, and the power of space is separated from its contents. Therefore, the concept of "empty space" also exists, however, for the case of place, it is more actual than abstract.
Besides, as illustrated above, the concept of organization means a lot of things, including division, control, impose, hierarchical, productive, personal, symbolic and social. If starting from the aspect of organization as a place of work, rather than space of work, it could only demonstrate a part of the features of organization, in that it could not express the idea of division, control, impose, hierarchical and productive. Place means the location of an organization, which did not highlight the structure of the organization.
Space emphasized mobility rather than place, and for the case of organization, it seems that the space is more appropriate than place to demonstrate the nature of organization. Since an organization is composed of many individuals, with the same aim of either producing a certain kind of product or proving service, from that aspect, if the location of the organization was changed, as long as its organizational structure is not changed, it could still make daily operations as it used to be. A good example is the case of HSBC, which was firstly built in Hong Kong and Shanghai of China, and due to politics issue, the bank had to move from its original basement to the new market of the US, and also achieved great success. The same also happened to the multinational company after the 1990s, that the branch office in a different market also received good sales and even surpassed the revenue in the base market.
This essay firstly introduced the traditional management theory, especially the Taylorism and Fayol, and emphasized on respective character, in that the former took highly respect of productivity and the latter started from an overall aspect of the whole organization. After years of development, the organization theory has developed, and the form of organization also changed rapidly. A new concept of organizational space came out, considering that an organization is a space of work. In this essay, a detailed compare of organization and space was provided from aspects of division, control, impose, hierarchical, productive, personal, symbolic and social, and although difference existed between organization and space in the conceptual way that organization is composed of humans and therefore are more unpredictable and complex than pure space composed of lifeless staffs.
In compare with space, the concept of place was also analyzed with detail to show three major differences from space: lack of mobility, today's organization could be located anywhere and might change the place rapidly; realistic rather than abstract, today's organization might even have no actual locations, but only staffs; and disability to show the rich meaning of organization, such as division, control, impose, hierarchical and productive. Therefore, organization is more a space or work rather than place of work.