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Two Perspectives Of Organization Theory Essay

1826 words - 7 pages

Organization theory is the body of knowledge related to the examination and analysis of both the internal workings of organizations and their interactions with their external environments. This knowledge is generated either through practical experience or through scientific inquiry. Organization theory is also concerned with applying this knowledge to designing and managing organizations. Contrary to what the term “organization theory” might suggest, the literature of this field of study teems with a variety of organization theories. Each theory offers a perspective for understanding organizations. The wealth of perspectives in organization theory stems from the diverse, complex, and dynamic nature of organizations and the wide range of academic disciplines underlying the field of organization theory. For any field of study as diverse as organization theory, controversies are bound to occur. Such a clash of perspectives occurred when Herbert Simon published “The Proverbs of Public Administration”---a biting criticism of classical organization theory as exemplified by the work of Luther Gulick. I shall first summarize Gulick’s and Simon’s central ideas about organizations, laying the ground to compare and contrast their approaches. Then I will consider Simon’s critique of Gulick, and to be fair to Gulick, we shall also examine arguments from an article written in Gulick’s defense by Thomas Hammond. In the course of the discussion of the Gulick-Simon debate, I will take the liberty to interpose my comments on the arguments put forth. My global comments on this debate are collected toward the end of this think piece.
Let us first consider Gulick’s perspective on organizations. Gulick’s work on organization theory belongs to the administrative management school of thought. Administrative management is concerned with identifying fundamental functions performed by managers and broad principles that guide the management of organizations. Henri Fayol, one of the most important contributors to this perspective, identified five functions and fourteen principles of management. In 1937, Gulick published “Notes on the Theory of Organization”, a memorandum Gullick prepared as a member of President Roosevelt's committee on administrative management. In this essay, Gulick expanded Fayol’s list of functions into seven functions. These functions are summarized with the acronym POSDCORB, which stands for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting.
More importantly, Gulick identified a number of principles in his memorandum. Gulick considers the division and specialization of work the very foundation of organization, even the reason for its existence. In the introduction to the memorandum, Gulick states that “[w]herever many men are thus working together the best results are secured when there is a division of work among these men.” (Gulick, p. 3) The division of work necessitates coordination, which...

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