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The Strengths And Limitations Of A Rational, Strategic Approach To Organisational Change

5116 words - 20 pages

The Strengths and Limitations of a Rational, Strategic Approach to Organisational Change


Following the brief introduction of a model-ideal conceptualisation of
Organisational Goal-Directed-Activity, and the definition within the
perspective defined by this model of such terms like 'rational
(organisational) action system', 'strategy', and 'organisational
change', the first part of this essay presents a non-evaluative
summary of a selection of distinct approaches to organisational
change. Various approaches to strategy are similarly addressed in an
attempt to register and explore some of the links that have been
identified by a number of authors between positions on strategy
reviewed and corresponding approaches to organisational change.

The second part, bypassing the rather common practice of partitioning
the set of organisational change approaches into largely
non-overlapping rational and nonrational, strategic and nonstrategic,
subsets, identifies a number of distinct Rational and/or Strategic
Modes, associates them with the approaches to organisational change
reviewed in the first part, and attempts an integrated appraisal of
the distinctive strengths and limitations such diverse Modes confer to
the approaches to change that invoke and utilise them.

1. A Model-Ideal Conceptualisation of Organisational
Goal-Directed-Activity, Rationality, Strategicality, and
Organisational Change

When planned and goal-directed, fully rational organisational action,
like any other ideal form of goal-directed-action, relies on activity
generated by the decomposition of a goal-structure, a term that has
been defined as follows: "The goal-structure is a principled
construction with a clear semantics. That is, subgoals are asserted as
necessary and sufficient conditions for achieving the goal" (Anderson,
1983:33). By implementing all the necessary action-steps in a
principled manner, means indispensable to the attainment of the
pursued goal are not left out. In its reliance on such a
goal-structure the action-system is effective. Not exceeding some
sufficiency standard, on the other hand, makes the action-system
efficient. An organisation's reliance on the recursive application of
the means-ends relational thinking that defines goal-structures
capable of conferring effectiveness and efficiency to the
action-system that uses them, establishes that action system as a
rational action-system.

In one form or another, the type of rationality involved here is
commonly referred to as instrumental rationality, and is by far the
most common in discussions of goal-directed-action. Elster, for
example, defines rationality as "roughly speaking the instrumentally
efficient pursuit of given ends" (1999:102). For Simon "a system is
rational to the extent that its behaviour...

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