Re: Essence LO164

Mariann Jelinek (
Sat, 18 Feb 1995 17:33:23 -0500

Tobin's comments in LO135 about energy + information -->
organization, and wondering whether organizations contained some notion of
consciousness is an important line of inquiry. Most
organization/management theory has ignored people to focus on structure
per se (authority patterns, maybe information flows -- though often
without much attention to how information affects anything, departmental
structures and such measures as centralization). Yet any real
"organization" is really a shared set of beliefs, attitudes and behavioral
norms that coordinate: we agree to behave as if such a thing as "an
organization" - IBM, TI, Intel, Ford, the Boston Symphony or the Catholic
Church, for instance - existed. We act on its behalf (as if it had
interests and needs), etc.
All that says to me that some form of "organization mind" is real
- but perhaps a bit different from the usual way organizations are
construed. First, a fraction of that organization mind is embodied in
rules, procedures, etc. This is the static fraction, though some
organizations emphasize procedures of inquiry instead of rules, so that
results are more dynamic. Next, the shared understandings of members
embodies more of the organization mind, and individual members are "memory
cells" that hold certain information, and, in a healthy organization, make
it available to others at need. People constantly adjust their shared
understandings, in light of what's going on around them personally, and in
interaction with others, so that the SHARED character of their cognitions
is maintained. Tools like vision and strategy also contribute to this
notion - and to maintaining the coordination and understanding that enable
us to speak of an organization.


Mariann Jelinek
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
Graduate School of Business,
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Tel. (804) 221-2882 FAX: (804) 229-6135