Newspapers: Have they met their final deadline? Part One

For my final paper, I will be examining the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry is currently at a turning point. New technology, especially the internet, has changed the way people receive their news. At the same time, the universal advertising-supported revenue model is becoming unprofitable. The industry as a whole has had difficulties keeping up with the times and many newspapers are going under or are moving to online versions online. First, I will look at the organizational structure of a typical newspaper. I will also examine the current revenue model and offer alternative models. Finally, I will discuss how the newspaper industry has succumbed to institutional inertia. 

Part One: Editorial Staffs as Rational Organizations

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Org Theory for Good

I have only started this article in s+b, published by Booz and Company, a consulting firm.  But its premise is very interesting: we are seeing a new wave of organizational forms and organizational technology to support business-social benefit hybrids.

The idea also contains an explicit criticism of business as usual:

The Soul of a New Design
For years, critics of the corporation have argued that the prevailing design of publicly held corporations is innately flawed. That design involves a board that is elected by shareholders — with votes allocated proportionately to the number of shares held — whose members then appoint a semiautonomous CEO as the shareholders’ agent, who in turn delegates authority down through the ranks. In many ways, this has been a highly effective model. The “managerial hierarchy” structure, as corporate historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr. called it, has ac­complished more in a short time than any other form the world has known.

But this shareholder-centric model has also contributed over the years to what former Citigroup CEO John Reed has called the “iron triangle of short-term pressures” — hedge funds, stock options, and stock analysts — that keeps companies narrowly focused on quarterly profits.

You are welcome to read and write more on this article for a blog post.

The Government of the United States

I have heard many US Americans complain about the Government here and its flaws. I dare you to read this post, if by the end of it, you can draw me an organization chart of the Government I am about to compare the US Government to, I shall owe you a home-cooked South Asian meal.

This article relates to a current event. Click Here to follow these developments.

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Pursuit of Personal Interests Working Towards One Goal. Whose goal…?

As we learn more and more about what happened internally at Enron, I think it’s safe to say there are some pretty clear connections to the organizational structure there and some of the structures we are learning about in Scott and Davis’s “Organizing and Organizations.” Something that stood out in my mind in particular was the idea of a “loosely-coupled” organization and how it influences the behavior of the individuals within the company. What I took from their description of a loosely-coupled structure is that it allows for a higher level of autonomy, and that the goals and intentions of an individuals are not always in tune with the overall goal of the organization. The executives at Enron were essentially given free range (and unlimited resources) to carry out transactions that not even the CEO really understood. Rebecca Mark’s rampant adventure about the globe to gain as much of an international presence as possible was pretty much overseen by…no one. Andrew Fastow’s unmatched knowledge about how to tweak financial statements gave him complete autonomy and even authority where it was certainly unwarranted. These are just two examples among many of individuals at Enron being allowed to pursue a personal goal completely unchallenged (or enough that they weren’t stopped) by anyone else in the company.
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Cool Tool – Cog Map: A Wiki Dedicated to Organization Charts

I was on a quest to find the organization charts of online businesses when I came across Cog Map. This website utilizes the Wiki concept and allows users to create or modify organizations charts. There are many company’s already listed on here, and it is a growing database. Of course, as with Wikipedia one has to be careful and find more authentic sources for the information presented on any kind of Wiki.

The web-based utility allows you to download the organization strusture as a Comma Separated Values (csv) file and also has a feature that allows you to track changes in a given organization chart. Here is Google’s Organization Chart as an example.

From T(r)ee to T(r)ee

While looking through recent (a relative term used for any time period ranging from a few hours to a couple years) news items related to restructuring of organizations to meet new global challenges, I cam across two different organizations – Tata and Toyota. These are names that I had grown up hearing all the time in Pakistan. Tata was a business giant from India that produced (among other things) vehicles. Meanwhile, Toyota specialized in the production of automobiles and last year became the world’s largest manufacturer ahead of General Motors.

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Formalized Structures are Eventually Ineffecient

Organizations and Organizing mentions the development of a type of rational system known as a formalized structure. Organizations design formalized structures by making the rules and roles of its members clear and explicit. This makes the social structure and flow of information obvious so that the organization’s performance is easily predictable and there is an elimination of power struggles. Additionally, it makes it so that the organization is separate from the individuals. Formalized structures are types of rational systems considered to maximize an organization’s efficiency. However, it seems soooooooo obvious that these key elements supporting the formalized structure could actually lead to decreased efficiency.

Brave New World is a classic piece of fiction written by Aldous Huxley that I believe demonstrates the problems with a formalized structure. In the book, Huxley describes a “Brave New World” that is a “world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering” (Huxley, Book Synopsis). In this world, the government genetically engineers 3 types of people. There are the leaders and thinkers, the less intellectual, and the stupefied. The book debates if the standardization of people is dehumanizing— or if stability is more significant than humanity. It ultimately concludes the scariness of living in the “Brave New World” where human life does not seem worth living. The formalized structure seems like it would have the same consequences as the fictional “Brave New World.” It too places more value on job standardization and stability than on creativity and flexibility. With a person feeling their job function is standardized, will they ever feel significant within their role? I believe in the United States if people’s jobs are all subject to the formalized system the end result will be a lack of enthusiasm, quitting, and the demise of an organization.

Nickel and Dimed seems to be another piece demonstrating the problems of the formalized structure. Barbara Ehrenreich’s description of working at Wal-Mart where her job is standardized sounds highly oppressive. She says that for her manager, “the layout is about the only thing she can control, since [all else is] determined by the home office in Arkansas.” (Ehrenreich 156). The work “requires minimal human interaction, of either the collegial or the supervisor sort, largely because it is so self-defining” (Ehrenreich 157). If the workers do not do exactly as instructed, Wal-Mart makes them aware they can easily replace them. This leaves workers with jobs that have no intrinsic value; and so, they begin to ask questions like “Why do we—work here? Why do we stay?” (Ehrenreich 179). With these types of questions, I do believe there is a big storm brewing over Wal-Mart and organizations with similar formalized structures. There is a consequence to efficiency through standardization.

Formalized structures may lead to increased efficiency INITALLY. However, with the general discomfort toward formalization as discussed in Brave New World and Nickel and Dimed, I am lead to believe that formalization has long term consequences. I am also lead to question the intentions and ethics of the organizations that institute them. Wal-Mart, Nike, and others which have formalized systems, seem to put employees in some of the most terrible working conditions, and worse yet, leave them without a voice. In this way, I really do question the long-term effectiveness of the formalized structure.