Theories of
Metaphors for Studying Organizational
machine: highlights rational decision making,
concerned with functionality and goals of the
organization as a whole
 system: highlights interconnection and
interdependence within and among subsystems
and supersystems and environment
 culture: highlights meaning and values, stories,
rituals (grounded in local interactions,
 instruments of domination (critical)
Weick’s Theory of Organizing
Weick’s work considers the intersection of
organizing and communicating through a
consideration of sense-making in the organization
 Difference between social psychology of
organizations and social psychology of
organizing (not a container in which comm.
happens but mutual influence between
communicating and organizing).
The Process of Organizing
 Enactment
Members constitute social environment through a
process of “bracketing”
 They notice and respond to elements in the
environment (other person’s behaviors or events)
that subsequently influence behaviors and then fold
back into (constitute) the environment
Weick, cont.
Selection processes: Sense-making through
selecting, organizing, and framing events to
construct meaning
 Equivocality: multiple interpretations of same
○ Not too little information coming in, but too
 Sense-making occurs through the use of
 recipes (for unequivocal information
environments) or through
 communication negotiation (for equivocal
information environments)
Weick, cont.
Retention processes: interpretive schemes (recipes)
are stored for future use
 Interpretive schemes are stored in the form of
causal maps (if I do X, Y will follow)
○ Causal maps provide a link back to earlier phases of
Weick’s model
○ Stored maps and recipes are the source of culture and
strategy for organizations and identities and
continuities of individuals within organizations.
Structuration Theory: Giddens
 Duality
of structure –
actions produce and reproduce social
 and then are enabled and constrained by
those structures
Structuration Theory, cont.
 Agency: We are active agents who produce and
reproduce the social world
 We make rule-guided and creative choices about
how to act.
 These choices are constrained by our circumstances
Structuration Theory, cont.
 Reflexivity: As agents in the social world,
we can observe what we are doing, give
accounts of situations, and act creatively
 Dialectic of Control: As reflexive agents,
we always have the capacity to make a
difference in the social world
 we operate within structures, but are able to
change those structures.
Structuration Theory, cont.
 Structures: Rules and resources that constrain
and enable action in the social world.
 Rules: Typically unstated and routinized procedures
for how to get things done (more or less durable).
 Resources: The capabilities social actors draw on to
get things done: allocative (material) or authoritative
 highly routinized practices = social systems
 highly routinized rules and resources = institutions
 (p. 216 bottom)
Structuration Theory in
Organizational Communication
 Structurational studies
 Organizational form
○ structure = rules and resources that org.
members use to coordinate their interactions
 Organizational climate
○ “intersubjective” and “created through
discourse” (e.g., friendly, competitive)
Structuration Theory in
Organizational Communication
Studies of organizational communication genres
such as memos (email? State Farm)
 Genre structures influence, but do not dictate
Studies of organizational (or professional)
identification and ideology
 Transitions during organizational mergers
 AA group meetings (alcoholic self is both agent and
outcome as it evolves through recursive group
practices and individual actions)
The Text and Conversation of
Organizing (Taylor)
Organizations and communication produce each
other in reciprocal process (in contrast to
“container” metaphor or causal view)
 Text -- the content of interaction (can be made
available through face-to-face interaction or
alternative media).
 Conversation is the communicative interaction
itself—what is happening behaviorally between
two or more people.
Translation Process:
From Text to Conversation
 Text
is meaning; conversation is activity.
 Conversation is a string of texts
collaboratively produced
 Conversation and Text work together in two
“translations” which are:
 Recursive (reciprocal)
 Simultaneous
Translation Process:
(Simultaneous and Recursive)
 One: From text (meaning) to conversation
○ Borrows from speech act theory –illocutionary force
or intended “action” of speaker
○ Intent, context, relationship
 Two: From conversation to text (reduce the
conversation to a text or summary)
○ Like “episodes” from CMM, or “bracketing” of
From Text and Conversation to
Organizational Communication
So—how does this apply to organizations?
 Organizational communication is formalized
through processes of distanciation:
 Distance between intended meaning of speaker
and what is created and retained from the
From Text and Conversation to
Organizational Communication
 Degrees of separation:
○ Distance of a particular communication act from
original intent of speaker
○ Cycles of movement between text and
○ “Layered objectification” of meaning and
interaction in increasingly abstract, formalized and
procedural forms
From Text and Conversation to
Organizational Communication
 The
Degrees of Separation
○ 1st degree—speaker intent into conversation
○ 2nd degree—conversation translated into
narrative representation.
○ 3rd degree—text is transcribed (objectified)
 e.g., minutes of a meeting
Table 12.2 (p. 222)
Unobtrusive and Concertive Control
Theory (Barker, Cheney, Tompkins)
Traditional ways of looking at control:
 simple control (direct and authoritarian exertion of
 technological control (physical technology used in
an org.—from assembly line to computer
 bureaucratic control (not an individual
but of a system of rules that control rewards and
Unobtrusive & Concertive Control
Barker et al.
 Identification refers to a sense of connection that
develops between an individual and a social group
(e.g., organizations, work groups, and other social
 Discipline refers to using the norms and values of the
organization as a guide for behavior
Unobtrusive & Concertive Control
Identification with an organization leads members to
adopt (internalize) the organization’s standards
Unobtrusive control occurs when decisions of the
individual are premised on organizational values
(parallel to “control by consent,” self-censorship)
 Concertive control occurs when members of work
group reward and punish each other for
conformity to group values (similar to peer
Closing Question
 What
examples of the following types of
control do you see/experience in the graduate
 simple control
 technological control
 bureaucratic control
 concertive control
 unobtrusive

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