I have come to distinguish between what I call “the purposeful organization” and “the valence organization.” One is based on the objectives, goals, and outcomes that the organization achieves, the other is based fundamentally on the relationships among all the members of the organization. This, however, suggests a question: what came first, the purpose or the relationships?
The former example – the purposeful organization – is what I perceive to be the conventional definition of organization, that is, a group of people who come together to accomplish a particular purpose. When they come together, they eventually create various relationships, but the organization’s objectives, goals, and outcomes – its purpose – is primary and sustains over time, irrespective of the people. This, of course, leads to the BAH notion (ex Frederick Winslow Taylor and Scientific Management) that people are interchangeable, so long as the replacement “parts” (people) have the same specifications as did the “original equipment,” and that the management protocols are well-defined and rigorously adhered to (ex Henri Fayol).
In a valence organization, people create multiple relationships among each other and the purpose of the organization is an emergent property of the people in relationship. Change the people and you change the relationships; hence, you change the nature of the organization itself. It is almost inevitable that the purpose of the organization will similarly change to a greater or lesser extent, as will its ways and means of accomplishing that purpose. However, Valence Theory also includes an action theory of effects: the nature and characteristic of the organization is expressed in the effects it creates throughout its social and physical environment – in other words, through its tactility, who it touches and how it touches them. To maintain a consistent valence organization is to maintain its tactility, although the means and specific objectives that create its various effects will inevitably change as the complex social and physical environment in which it exists changes according to the principles of complexity.
So which comes first, the purpose or the relationship? I think its fairly evident: You can achieve relationship without a purpose, but you cannot achieve a purpose without relationship.
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