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Human Resource Management

Some theorists have argued that organisation theory has been and still is a varied collection of design rules with the semblance of a single canon of truth, reality and progress (Reed 1992; Clegg et al. 1996). Goal of this research then may seem rather broad. Its concern is to consider the degree to which, in the context of organisational studies, the ‘grounding’ of candidate theories might be, and if any ‘real world’ consequences are entailed by such theorising.

The work is concerned especially to identify how can a knowledge and understanding of organisation theory and strategic human resource management provide managers with the leadership, personal skills and competencies to maintain sustainable competitive advantage. The paper will be concerned too with descriptions of more technologically oriented work as well as the work of senior managers within such organisations. A view is that change management needs adequate descriptions of any and all jobs in any organisation.

The kinds of phrases that typically get used to convey or label such descriptions are, unfortunately, rather awkward; the ‘lived experience’ is perhaps one of the most popular. But what such descriptions should say is something about what ‘doing a job of work’ is like without losing sight

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of the work in question for the sake of theory (Taylor 1993). Perhaps the most striking feature of the organisational literature is how little understanding of these ‘experiential’ aspects it confers, and this holds true regardless of the theoretical stance in question.

It seems that reasons for this lie in the purposes to which the research in question is put to. By and large, these purposes have to do with elaborating or refining theoretical discussions. In everyday speech the verb ‘to organize’ implies that order is being created from a potentially chaotic situation. Similarly when the noun ‘organization’ is used, both in common parlance and in a strictly sociological sense, the notion of order springs to mind.

Order being created so that a set of predefined objectives may be achieved; order so that members of an organization are aware of and carry out their prescribed functions; order so that the whole functions as such. Subsumed within this concept of order is a host of functions that can be seen to operate within organizations and a fundamental aim of this unit is to examine those functions that collectively give rise to certain patterns of work activity directly resulting from organization and the fact of people being organized.

The contemporary family, consisting typically of two adults with two or perhaps three children, clearly operates on a different scale from, say, IBM, which encompasses many thousands of people throughout the world. Accompanying this factor of size is the issue of complexity. The functions of the family, whilst in some dispute amongst sociologists of the family, are small compared with the functions of the modern corporation although perhaps quite enough for such a small unit to cope with at any one time.

The sheer size and complexity of large organizations tend towards relations being formal and impersonal. Furthermore, the large organization has a clearly defined set of goals and a clearly defined set of means of achieving these goals. Parsons (1956, p. 63) defines organizations thus, ‘As a formal analytical point of reference, primacy of orientation to the attainment of a specific goal is used as the defining characteristic of an organization which distinguishes it from other types of social system.

‘[…]One way forward is still to accept that goals are important both in distinguishing organizations from non-organizations and in terms of providing some clues as to what actually happens in organizations in practice. But in order to arrive at this position it has to be recognized that the goals of an organization are themselves abstractions and that for the ordinary member of the organization they may have little immediate relevance in the course of carrying out day-to-day organizational functions.

Perrow (1992) distinguishes between the official goals of an organization – ‘the general purposes of the organization are put forth in the charter, annual reports, public statements by key executives and other authoritative pronouncements’, – and the operative goals which ‘designate the ends sought through the actual operating policies of the organization; they tell what the organization actually is trying to do, regardless of what the official goals say are the aims’. It will be shown below how the reality of IBM organizational functioning is partly shaped by this distinction.

At this stage it is sufficient to be aware that what senior members of an organization claim it is doing may, in practice, be different from what it actually does. IBM has a leader and a specific administrative function. Both leader(s) and administrators are organized or ordered into specific types of social relationships. Thus, orders are obeyed because of a belief that the order-giver is acting legitimately, according to an agreed-upon set of legal rules and regulations. A set of characteristics, which apply to all members of IBM, can be listed as: 1 The employees are personally free. 2 There is a clear hierarchy of offices.

3 The tasks of the staff are clearly indicated. 4 Administrators are chosen in the basis of a contract. 5 They are selected on the basis of a professional qualification, ideally substantiated by a diploma gained through examination. 6 They have a money salary and usually pension rights. The salary is graded according to position in the hierarchy. The official can always leave the post, and, under certain circumstances, it may also be terminated. 7 The official’s post is his sole or major occupation. 8 There is a career structure and promotion is possible either by seniority or merit and according to the judgement of superiors.

9 The official may appropriate neither the post nor the resources which go with it. 10 He is subject to a unified control and disciplinary system. IBM, then, characterises a particular form of rationality. The next section shall examine the nature of goals, the purposes they serve and how they emerge. The goals of IBM exist to give direction to the activities of its members. In IBM, goals comprise both an overall statement of intent, sometimes referred to as a mission statement, and a set of more detailed objectives to guide strategic planning.

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