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Understanding Organizations

Many regard David Boje (2004) as the leading postmodern thinker in management theory. His book on Narrative Methods for Organizational & Communication Research underscores the method of storytelling as against the organizational theory of modern times. His concepts present the concept of narrative that contests the usual totalizing and linear approaches often used in organizations today (Boje 2004). However, at present, most organizations are best approached as actor-networks. The Actor-network theory (ANT) was conceived by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law.

This is unique because it not only comprises people but also objects and organizations. As a whole, these elements are called actors or actants. What distinguishes this from the other kinds of theory is the concept of being heterogenous. This means, it is a network that may contain dissimilar, unconnected parts but with ANT, is treated as inseparable because it includes all elements that will make is successful over the long haul. (Theories Used In IS Research. Actor-Network Theory). The work of identifying these essential elements lies on the researcher.

It means that these elements are equally important to a social network. Thus, insignificant as it may seem, the cashier or a software system is as important in the overall success of an organization as the men and women who make use of it (Theories Used In IS Research. Actor-Network Theory. ) Communication is a very important skill used in relating with people especially in organizations. This determines how well one can be a good leader or a functional team member. It is in this light that organizations are best seen as actor-networks composed of driven men and women.

In fact, these actors differ in the way they communicate, thus, giving a different and unique way of interactions between members. Deborah Tannen’s Men and Women Talking on the Job maintains that men use conversational rituals that are interpreted literally and thus seen to be hostile at times, when they are not. On the other hand, women employ conversational skills that are designed to avoid appearing boastful and taking the other person’s feelings into consideration, yet in the long run are interpreted to be less competent and confident than they really are (Tannen, 1994).

Tannen elucidates three points in the material: a) Negotiating from the Inside Out or the Outside in – This just simply means that the parties in a communication or negotiating encounter must be able to come up with a decision that matches their styles or else they will end up confused and worst, as enemies. The author states that people must begin by saying what one will do. b). Individual styles of communication matters less than how they are played in concert with the other’s style.

According to the example given by the author, if Harold’s threat to quit was heard by another one who had a different set of communication style, then, that threat would have been simple set aside and taken lightly. Thus, the result would have gone the other way. c) Confidence shown by people making decisions affect the communication process. This means that the way a person delivers his lines or hesitates at some point, spells a lot in how the communication goes. Even people who lie will be given away because of their non-verbals that speak as loudly as the verbals.

(Vinnicombe). The actor-network theory which evolved from the work of Michel Callon (1991) and Bruno Latour (1992) at the Ecole des Mines in Paris demonstrates the interplay of both human and non-human actors that assume identities according to the interactions. Central to these negotiations is “translation,” a multifaceted interaction where actors “(1) construct common definitions and meanings, (2) define representativities, and (3) co-opt each other in the pursuit of individual and collective objectives. ”( What is Actor-Network Theory).

This theory maintains that in the actor-network theory, the role of both the actor and the actants are critical in the reconstruction of the network of interactions which makes the system stable. The difference lies in the fact that “only actors are able to put actants in circulation in the system. ” (What is Actor-Network Theory). Communicating styles of men and women vary. Effective communication is the key to the success of managing change in organizations. Through effective communication, confusion is prevented; it lessens the chances of losing the business or mismanaging it.

It helps identify conflicts, maintain efficient infrastructure, widens the avenues for continuous progress and development. Moreover, it strengthens a system that truly serves the best interests of the business and the people working behind it. Even in real life outside the workplace, men thrive on appreciation and women on communication. When one understands this, one gains the knowledge and the power to create mutually fulfilling relationships. Like actors, people in an organization communicate using different forms.

This is probably the reason the actor-network theory is gaining more and more advocates. Here are some elements that actors make use of and which are useful tools in an organizational setup composed of a diverse set of people: Tone – People’s tone conveys a lot of meaning. They must not be disparaging but on the same level with the audience. One avoids stiff and pompous language in communicating with people. It must be a light and mood-enhancing tone. Purpose- The purpose of organizations must be definite.

People want to know that there are differences if one were to really understand what goes on in a communication process. The purpose is clear in mind because once an individual succeeds in telling the difference, then, he/she will be able to iron out the confusion in any communication situation especially between men and women in the workplace. Audience –A manager has a great respect for the audience, who can be both entertained and informed by what a person says. It is a two-way process for two persons It is vital that managers keep their audience in mind. These are their staff and their people.

As actors, sociologists believe that men and women’s need must be allowed to obtain social acceptance and security, although there are some disadvantages to adhering to strict rules as well. One such disadvantage is that it may debilitate an individual’s full potential because of the many restrictions. Looking at these aspects on what actually happens in real life organization, we cannot help but remember that the organizational behavior’s emphasis on people makes the management understand their employees more and make them committed in pursuing a common organizational goal of productivity and effectiveness.

There are strategies to effect changes in the current behavior of workers in order to make them work with commitment to the organization. One of these strategies in building the performance of a worker is through motivation. People who are satisfied with their job are more motivated to be more productive. In order for the manager to effectively motivate his employees, he must have knowledge on what determines their motivation. Again, under the principle of actor-network theory, an effective manager could formulate a motivation technique that would fit into the needs of the workers and encourage them to be more productive.

Understanding what moves workers to work more productively would make the decision of the managers in coming up with a motivational technique more acceptable to the workers and in turn would give favorable results for the whole organization. There are risks in committing oneself to grow, especially in the area of communication. Inherent in growth is the greatest excitement in life, but growth produces constant change, and change is often frightening because it always leads us into the unknown.

When the individual, aware of the risks, has made his choice, then we teach him new processes for developing a better understanding of himself, for expressing himself more congruently and spontaneously, for making connections that are enhancing to himself and others, and for adapting to constant change. Thus, in the long run, any societal order is an effect that is functioning because of the smooth running of an actor network. Thus, when an actor in the network is removed, the removal of, for example, persons or telephones or any object can result in significant breakdowns in social order (Wikipedia).

People’s propensity for action is maximized in an actor-network theory. Leaders in organizations want to make things happen. Others are more prone to contemplation and may have a greater interest in exploring the possible solutions and implications. Whatever course of action a company opts for, when the actor-network theory comes into play, all the necessary elements are considered, and nothing is left to chance for the company’s success over the long haul. Conclusion Organizations are best as actor-networks and not so much as a process of discourse and narratives.

The reason is because organizations are composed of a lot of different elements, and where change is an amorphous thing. It is hard to pin down and of an indeterminate form. There are points in the time line of transformation when an organization leaves one kind of change in lieu of another kind that is more dynamic. With hindsight, everything is easy. These elements act together to form a unified whole. When the “actors” in an organization translate a change, they map out the changes that will be necessary to complete the reinvention process, especially since reinvention needs to go everyday, for the rest of the life of the company.

When there is a good actor-network implemented in a company, all elements are taken as goals and guidelines are met. The other players in the network are careful about how one sets out the goals and guidelines. In a narrative kind of set-up, matters will be a constant discussion of matters. But organizations are dynamic and these guidelines need some trying out in the process. Some goals are almost ethereal and certainly long-term. The other members in the actor-network come into play in order to try out the goals and strategies.


Boje, D. Narrative Methods for Organizational & Communication Research. (April 28, 2004) Sage Publications UK. Cherrington, D. , Bischoff, S. , Dyer, W. and Stephan, E. (2001). Organizational Effectiveness, Brigham Young University. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2005 at: Tannen, Deborah, Men and Women on the Job. William Morrow Inc. 1994. Theories Used In IS Research. Actor-Network Theory. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2006 at: http://www. istheory. yorku. ca/actornetworktheory. htm Vinnicombe, Susan.

The Debate: Do men and women have different leadership styles? What is Actor-Network Theory. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2006 at: http://carbon. cudenver. edu/~mryder/itc_data/ant_dff. html Witt, Susan D. “Parental Influence on Children’s Socialization to Gender Roles. ” Socialization to Gender Roles. ” Adolescence. Summer 1997Retrieved Oct. 24, 2006 at: . http://www. findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_n126_v32/ai_19619406 Wikipedia. Actor Network Theory. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2006 at: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Actor_network_theory

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