Monday, January 12, 2009

Organizational Theory in the Real World

I am back, and this quarter my meanderings are related to a decidedly different topic... one whose focus is human through and through...
The study of organizational theory - and its impact on institutions both educational and those of the business world - has many facets.  While the emphasis of most theorists appears to be on reflection upon the effectiveness of practice and efficiency in the workplace, human response is the continuous underlying theme that gives it a heart and a soul.

My initial response throughout the readings has been to seek an understanding of the theories presented by each of the authors.  However, with each theory, there is an example of a "real life" experience (either current or from my past) that corresponds with the research.  Despite the fact that these theories are associated with organizations, it is clear that they play out in virtually every human interaction that involves groups that are working with a purpose or goal.

Tuckman's theoretical model of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning is one of many examples of this.  Certainly, most have observed and experienced this in association with their working relationships... That movement from the initial phase marked by dependence and the desire for acceptance; to the period during which conflicts may arise as roles are established and problem-solving becomes the focus; into a time of creativity, when authentic sharing is evident professionally and personally; to the period of experimentation in which the interdependence of group members lends itself to productivity; to the final stage of task completion, in which members may experience a sense of loss as they move from giving up control to giving up inclusion in the group.  

While all groups do not move through each of the stages, and, at least according to some theorists, the stages are not necessarily linear; forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning are familiar points on the path that successful groups that I have participated in have followed.  

Within this cohort, whether prescribed or self-designed, groups that I have worked in that have been put to the task of ongoing challenges have moved from the initial phase of orientation to the final phase of productivity.  In groups in which the pairing has been less frequent, there has even been the sense of loss associated with the adjourning stage.  

Human endeavors are human.  Therefore, while theories exist, and they may provide a helpful guide to what can be expected to repeat in the future within similar frameworks, there is no hard and fast rule about people.  It is likely that I will continue to be fascinated by the research in this field.  

Am I more prone to recall Tuckman's model because of the rhythmic and clever terms he uses to describe each stage?  Perhaps.  But it is more likely that, like other research we are reviewing and practices we are studying, the hook for me is the relationship between what is defined and what I have experienced.

No comments: