When Governments Fail…

This past Monday, Iceland’s coalition government collapsed amid public outcry of the government’s failure to effectively bail out their broken financial system.  Simply put, Iceland did not have deep enough pockets like the US did to provide some sort of recovery program for its banks and other financial institutions.  Although those are some of the more specific reasons as to why this organization failed, upon coming across this story, I was curious to see if I could draw parallels to some of the things we’ve discussed in class…hopefully it’s successful.

Now, I find it very unsettling that while a government fails, organizations (more specifically, corporations), prosper.  This is even more concerning in the case of Iceland, which to date, had the oldest functioning legislature in the world, founded in 930 AD.  So why are large corporations, such as Walmart, seemingly easier to run and maintain than small (democratic) governments? While I acknowledge that these two types of organizations are very different from each other, on the highest level, they share characteristics of functioning rational organizations such as formality and goal specificity.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, maybe there is something that Iceland’s government, (which I’m sure considered itself to be a rational organization with high levels of formality and goal specificity) could learn from the way in which Walmart operates as a rational organization.  I’ll preface this with the fact that I have very little knowledge about Iceland’s former coalition government to begin with, so bear with me.

We learn from Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed that the school of thought that most closely aligns with Walmart’s organizational characteristics is (arguably) that of Taylor’s scientific management.  Although Nickel and Dimed points out that Walmart’s implementation of this system is not without its flaws, it is necessary to point out that during the course of its existence, Walmart has learned how to effectively manage 2,100,000 employees.  To place that number into perspective, the population of Iceland is 304,367…Walmart employs almost SEVEN TIMES the total amount of people who live in Iceland.  Although running an organization successfully under a rational organization system goes far beyond sheer size of the workforce or population, this is an interesting fact to point out.  Maybe, just maybe, Iceland’s new government should try to implement aspects of Taylor’s scientific management, such as closer re-evaluation of the effectiveness of certain institutions and their fiscal feasibility.  Maybe this is just naïveté on my part to think that a government as an organization can implement principles that Taylor intended for industrial improvement, but hey, because their former government failed, maybe they could consider alternative approaches to ensure their government does not collapse again.


Bloggable ideas from Ch 2 of O&O

As an example of how to draw inspiration for blogging from the Scott and Davis book, Organizations and Organizing, I offer the following list of prompts from my notes.

  • Can it really be rational to purseu goals with maximum efficiency without caring about the selection of goals? Have you ever seen a group or organization do that?
  • Goal specificity: What would happen if you looked at some companies’ missions or annual reports.  Would you see goal specificity?  Why or why not?
  • The book (38 ) talks about several managerial systems like MBO, ISO 9000, and so on.  What is up with those?  What are they?  Are they still being pursued?  Are they simply “fads”?
  • Formalization of roles can objectify the structure (39).  Have you seen this in organizations you are a part of?  Greek system?
  • People who don’t like formality of systems are upset with how goals were derived, not formality (40, Stinchcombe quote).  Some critics now of TARP funds (bail out) are saying that they are being misused.  IS that an example of this point?
  • Have you worked in fast food?  Is it an example of Taylor’s Scientific management?
  • Have you seen examples of Weber’s three types of authority (47)?  Is there less charismatic authority now?
  • Can bureaucracy be good?  When, under what conditions?
  • Is The Office funny becuase it udnerstands some problems with bureaucracy or rational organizations?
  • Can you have organizations without rationality? How?

Continue reading