Organizations are everywhere. We depend on them but we don’t understand them well. When they FAIL you cannot just FIX them like a broken bike. Why not?

1.  They are complex

2.  Many key elements are invisible, especially

3. “People Problems” including politics, cultural factors, mental models, and conflicting goals and interests.


Take a cruise ship as a handy metaphor or mental image for studying orgs and how to fix / manage them. 

Each ship has its captain, crew, and customers;  it has  structures and operating rules; ; its mission is set by  head office and could be changed.  In an extreme emergency situation a cruise ship could switch from pleasure boat to troop carrier or to large life boat, doing rescue from a local ecological disaster. 

Our focus on images and metaphors has practical importance since orgs depend on their members having shared images and assumptions about "how we do things here". This is necessary for successful  communication and collaboration.. 

Team facilitators often ask members to make explicit their mental images of how their team and organization work, as a foundation for solving problems that have defeated managers. These images (some shared, some disputed) can be captured through talking, as well as by drawing, role-playing, and model-making.


(See G. Morgan's book Imagin-i-zation.)







A theory of how large organizations can survive long-term in a world of change (Dynamic Capability).


Let’s start out simple.


(1) Forget the "SILVER BULLET" image of a one-shot  quick solution for any tough org. problem.


(2) Replace the image of "bullets" and guns, with “power tools”.


The   problem targets move around a lot. Each of your tools performs differently: one (A) is slow but mighty, the other (B) is weaker but fast. To succeed you need to be good with both tools -- using the right one at the right time, and sometimes both together in various combinations.


(3) Now we shift our thinking because


  Your "power tools" are teams of people, collaborating within and between teams.

One set of teams (A) collaborates using lots of formal means; the other (B) uses mainly informal means.

Your challenge is to use each one where it is most effective and to get them to combine their strengths where needed. 


That 1-2-3 summary is the shortest possible introduction to a theory of DYNAMIC CAPABILITY - to explain how large organizations can survive long-term in a turbulent world.

A deeper/better account needs a dualistic (Both/And) theory - which follows.  SO ...


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Barry Sugarman