Chelsea Brown


EDU 5419 Advanced Study in Organizational Theory

Frank Smith, Ed.D.

Course Description

This course in theoretical perspectives closely considers a small number of theories to give practitioners access to the research literature of the field and to frame problems as research questions.

Course Synthesis

     What first comes to mind is, “I feel like I’ve been here before!”  Another course with Dr. Smith and another complex topic proved to challenge me once again and yet continue to brighten the light to guide me on my path.  Morgan’s Images of Organization took us on a journey through a variety of organizational metaphors. 

     Organizations as Machines are organizations that are expected to work in routines, in an efficient, reliable and predictable way. 

     One of the weaknesses of this metaphor is the underplaying of the human aspect in an organization.  Another weakness is the often narrow mindedness of looking at success/failures.

     Strengths in the mechanistic approach work well under the following situations: when there is a straightforward task to perform, when the environment is stable, when one wishes to produce exactly the same product time and again, when precision is at a premium and finally when the human “machine” parts are compliant.

     Morgan defines the metaphor of Organizations as Organisms as an examination of organization as a living system.  One of the main strengths is understanding the relationship between organizations and their environment.  Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy the needs of an organization must be met if it is to survive.  Once these needs have been met, success and realization that the organization has different “species” will allow for different a range of options.  A fourth strength is the flexibility, project-oriented matrix and organic forms of organization, allowing ideas and change. 

     The limitation of this metaphor is the assumption of “functional unity” or interdependence much like the human body.  Circumstances in which one element works in a way that sabotages the whole, the different elements of successful organizations are usually capable of living separate lives for the better good. 

     The benefit of the metaphor, Organizations as Brains, is the idea of the learning organization.  It identifies the need of different elements to support each other.  The strength of the brain metaphor is that it brings the learning processes together and shows how to move forward on a broad front.

     Negative implications are two factors that generate resistance from the status quo.  First the self-reference of brains looking at brains, causes us to look for other metaphors to make sense of what we see.  Second, is the conflict of creating a capacity for learning and self-organization.  This causes the danger of overlooking important conflicts within the organization.

     As you can see by this glance of Morgan’s Images of Organization, he delves into organization by looking at metaphors through several lenses.  He states simply that different metaphors give rise to different theories of organization and management and how an understanding of the process can help master the strengths and limitations of different viewpoints.  In order for us to become more effective leaders and managers, there is a need to apply the knowledge gained by Morgan’s outlining the various organizations. 


Morgan, G. (2006). Images of Organization. London: Sage Publications.

Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2004). Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


bullet Metaphors Assignment
bullet Images of Organization Feature Chart
bullet Final Paper


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"Let me point out that the refusal to answer a question can be as illuminating as an answer."

~Frank Seanez