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management theory, Morgan suggests is that

‘Most of these offer a specific theory for understanding and managing organizations or try to develop an integrated  framework that highlights certain dimensions over others. They reduce our understanding of organization to a particular way of seeing. My approach, on the other hand, was to suggest that, because any particular way of seeing is limited (including the one being advocated!), the challenge is to become skilled  in the “art of seeing”, in the art of “understanding”, in the art of “interpreting” and “reading”  the situations we face,’ (Morgan 1993 : 281)

In the book Morgan poses a series of ‘What if’ questions which encourage the reader to ‘think’ about the organisation – any organisation as machines, as brains, as cultures, as political systems, psychic prisons, flux and transformation, instruments of domination. Just as my students were confused at having to ‘think’ about research as a way of reflecting on one’s practice and that of colleagues in order to improve it , they have been equally challenged when asked to discount organisations as having any ‘objective’ features other than being constructed according to how we see/think about it. This then holds out the possibility if we can change the way we think about organisations we can change the organisation

This is the theme  that Patricia Shaw explores in challenging the concept that an organization has an existence separate from our own activity, even though we are uneasily aware that it is not so’ (Shaw 2002)  Through the medium of ‘conversations’ she proposes a way in which individuals can ‘reshape’ their organisation. But

‘I won’t be writing about conversations  that take place “in” an organization, but about conversing as organizing. I will be describing  and illustrating conversation as a process of communicative interaction which has the intrinsic capacity to pattern itself. No  single individual or group has control over the forms  that emerge, yet between us we are continuously shaping and being shaped by those forms from within the flow of our responsive relating’ (Shaw 2002: 11)  

Patricia Shaw was a founder member of  Ralph Stacey’s ‘Complexity and Management Centre’ at the University of Hertfordshire and her approach has been very much influenced by arguments around organisations as complex adaptive systems. I too have been influenced by complexity theory which in the field of knowledge management has had a big influence on how our perception of knowledge has changed from the  mainstream view of knowledge which Stacey sums up as follows:

‘the view is that knowledge must be extracted from individuals and preserved for the organization in the form of practices, routines and codes of one kind or another in which organizational knowledge is said to be stored.  (Stacey 2001: 42)

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