The theme of this book has been: To understand organizational beh avior, one must understand how the organization relates to other social actors in its environment. Organizations comply with the dem ands of others, or they act to manage the dependericies that create constraints on organizational actions. While not novel, the theoretical position advanced bere differs from many other writings about organiz ations. The perspective developed denies the validity of the conc eptualization of organizations as self-directed, autonomous actors pursuing their own ends and instead argues that organizations are other-directed, involved in a constant struggle for autonomy and disc retion, confronted with constraint and external control.
Most current writers give only token consideration to the environm ental context of organizations. The environment is there, somewbere outs ide the organization, and the idea is rnentioned t.hat environments constrain or affect organizations. It is sometimes mentioned that organ i7sdinnal nvirnnments are becomin more turbulent and this will
zational boundaries can be defined by tbc organization’s control over the actions of participants relative to the control of other social entities over these sarne activities. Control is the ability to initiate or terminate actions at one’s discretion. An organization’s control over aetivities is never absolute because there are always competing claims for the cont rol of given activitics. Attempts are made, however, to stabilize activif ies by institutionalizing exchanges mto formal roles and using other control mechanisms. The set of interlocked activities controllcd by the organization constitutes tbe organization. The organization’s most imp ortant sources of control to achieve interlocked strnctures of behavior are tbe ability to empower individuais to act on its behalf and to regulate the use, acccss, and aliocation of organizationally generated resources.
Organizations are coalitions of varying interests. Participants can, and frequently do, have incompatible preferences and goals. The quest ion of whose interests are to rcvai1 in oranizational actions is crucial to determining those actions. Power is ovcrlooked too frcquently by attending to issues of effectiveness and efficiency. Eflectiveness and organizational performan can be evaluated only by asking whose interests are being served.
Organizations, in addition to being coalitions of interests, are markets in which influcnce and control are transacted. Wben an organ ization is created, activities and outoome potential are created. Organ izations, or the energy represented in organizations, are resources. It is in the interests of those who require resources to atternpt to control and influence the organization. Participants attempt to exchange their own resources, their performances, for more control over the coilective effort, and then, they use that control to initiate actions for their own interests. In organizations as in other social systems, power organizes around critical and scarce resources. To the extent participants furnish resources that are more critical and scarce, they obtain more control over thc organization. Of course, the determination of what is critical and scarce is ftself open to change and definition. Power is, therefore, determined by thc clefinition of social reality created by participants as welI as by their control over resources.
Participants differ in the extent to which the organization controis thcir activities. Some participants provide resources but are not tightly bound to thc organization. These actors, which may be other organizat ions, groups, or individuais, constitute the social environment or cont ext of the organization. To the extent that these actors control critical resources and certain other conditions are met, they are in a position to influence the actions of organizations. In this sense, we can speak of the social control of organizations. The conditions that facilitate this control of the organization include:
1) The possession o! some resource by the social actor
2) The importance of the resource to thc focal organization; its criticality for the organizations activities and survival
3) The inability o! the focal organization to obtain thc rcsource elsewherc
4) The visibility of the behavlor or activity being controfled
5) The social actor’s discretion in the aliocation, access, and use of the critica! resource
6) Thc focal organization’s discrction and capability to take thc desircd action
7) The focal organization’s lack of control over resource critical to the social actor
8) The ability of the social actor to make its preferences known to the focal organization
Each of thesc conditions can be altered by the parties to thc relationship. The focal organization can attcmpt to avoici thcsc condit ions, and thereby enhance its discretion. The social actor seeking cont rol over the organization can act to increase the conditions, and thereby increase its control over the organization. Organizations int eracting with one anotber are involved in a dynamic sequence of actions and reactions Ieading to variations in control and discretion. Strategies of achieving control or discretion and sequences of interact ions have rarely bcen examined.
Tbe study of Israeli managers and their attitudes toward comp liance with governmental clemands, and the examination aí the response of United States defense contractors to affirmative action pressures both support the idea that organizations are externally cont rolled. Organizational responses were predicted from the situation of resource interdependence confronting the varlous organizations.
Organizational environments, however, are not objective realities. Environments become known through a process of enactment in which perceptions, attention, and interpretation come to define tbe context for the organization. Enactments of dependencies, contingencies, and external demands are in part determined by organizational structures, information systems, and the distribution of power and control within organizations.
Assessments which are inconsistent with the actual potency and demands of various participants may be made by organizations. The cognitive and perceptual processes of individuais and the design of most information systems focus attention on familiar historical events, most frequently events that have occurred within the organization. Coupled with a tendency to attribute organizational outcomes to the actions of individuais within the organization, thcsc characteristies of Information processing tend to lead most organizations to look within their own domains for the definition and solution of problems. In
addition, the contest for control within the organization intervenes to affect tbe enactment of organizational environmcnts. Since coping with critical contingencies is an important determinant of influence, subunits wilI seek to enact environrnents to favor their position. Adj ustments to environmental dernands follow when visible problems erode the position of those in the dominant coalition. Such adjustrnents are slowed by the abiity of thosc in power to institutionalize their control over thc organization. When the organization’s conceptions and responses to environmental constraints become 100 inappropriate, res ource acquisition becomes increasingly difficult. We suggested in Chapter Four a systematic procedure for assessing organizational env ironments and for evaluating tbe potential consequences of various organizational activities.
The fact of competing demands, even if correctly perceived, ma]ces the management of organizations difficult. It is clearly easier to
satisfy a single criterion, or a mutually compatible set of criteria, than to attempt to meet thc confficting demands of a variety of partlcipants. Compliance to demands is nol a satisfactory answer, since compliance with some demands must mean noncompliance with others. Organizat ions require some discretion to adjust to contingencies as they dev elop. If behaviors are already completely controlled, future adjustm ents are more difficult. For this reason, organizations attempt to avoid influence and constraint by restricting the flow of information about them and their activities, denying the Iegitiinacy of demands made upon them, diversifying their dependencies, and manipWating information to increase their own Iegitixnacy.
At the sarne timc organizations seek to avoid being controlled, they seek stability and certainty in their own resource exchanges. Ind eed, it is usually in the interests of aH partícipants to stabili7.e orgainz ational resource exchanges and ensure the organization’s survival. The organization, thus, confronts a dilemrna. On the one hand, future
adaptation requires thc ability to change and the discretion to modify actions. On the other hancl, the requirements for certainty and stabiity necessitate the development of interorganizational structures of coord inated hehaviors—interorganizat.ional organizations. The price for inc lusion in any coilective structure is the loss of cliscretion and control over one’s activities. Ironically, to gain some control over the activities of another organization, the focal organization must surrender some of itsown autonomy.
Organizations seek to avoid dependencies and external control and, at the sarne time, to shape their own contexts and retain their autonomy for indepenclent action. The dilemma between the mainten ance of discretion and the reduction of uncertainty leads to the perf ormance of contradictory activities. The dilemma of autonomy versus
ment. Managers form actions according to the interdependencíes they confront, and constraint and action are directly related. In the discret ionary role, constraints and environments are managed to suit the interests of the organization. Management’s function is to direct the organization toward more favorable environments and to manage and establish negotiated environments favorable to the organization. Ali three roles are typically involved in the management of organizations.
7he Symbolic Role of Managernent
The manager is a symbol of the organization and its success ar failure, a scapegoat, and a symbol of personal ar individual control over social actions and outcomes. Tbe symbolic role of management derives in part from a helief in personal causation as opposed to environmental determinism, a belief whicb is both pervasive and important to conc epts of human action (e.., KelIey, 1971: Lieberson and O’Connor,
1972). As a syznbol of control and personal causation, managers and organizational Ieaders can be used as scapegoats, rewarded when things go well and fired when they go poorly. The knowledge that someone is in charge and that the fate of the organization depends on that person offers the promi se of change in organizational activities and fortunes. When problems emerge, the solution is simple and easy—replace the manager. Such changes may not be accomplished readily, as the administrator’s power and ability to control the interpret ation of organizational outcomes can maintain tenure in office.
Organizations and social systems go to great lengtbs to invest managers witb symbolic value. Leaders may be provided with speciai perquisites and designations of authority which serve not only to rew ard the Jeader but also to remind others of this person’s importance by focusing their attention on him. When one leader leaves office, the search for the new leader may be elaborate, involving comrnittees, elections, inaugurations, and thc expenditure of time and resources. Ali
of these activities tend to cause observers to attribute great conseq uences to the occupant of the particular administrative position. In this sense, the syrnbolic role of management is critical whether or not the manager actually accounts for variance in organizational results. The symbol of control and personal causation provides the prospect of stability for the social system. Belief in the importance of leaders would, logically, lead to the replacement of leaders when things went badly. But, while there is some disruption when turnover occurs, the disruption and alteration of organizational activities is cleariy less than if the organization were rcdesigned and undcrtook new activities in new environments.
Beliefs in the potency of individual admirnstrators, created