Although it might not be the freshest option on the shelves, Images of Organization, by Gareth Morgan, offers a fascinating plunge into the many worlds of entreprises, management and organizations at large. The proposition is simple: give a definition of what constitutes an organization through the lens of different metaphors. The objective is to stretch our imagination beyond the sphere of management. Can an entreprise be seen as a machine, an organism, an instrument of domination or a political system? The answer is yes, most probably. In this book, Gareth Morgan proposes a new way of imagining organizations and their societies: he encourages us to better understand the world that we live and work in. But does all of this apply to education?
Throughout the book, Morgan describes eight different metaphors to explain what an organization is. The analogy is not strictly a figure of speech: every chapter is devoted to a particular metaphor where the author explores the relationship between the world of business, management and entreprise in the context of the chosen image. For example, in Chapter 2 – Mechanization takes command, Gareth Morgan illustrates how organizations can be considered as machines, not only in the way they function, but in their effect on the human beings that are their constituents. What follows is a reflection on mechanization of everyday processes, on the origin of the bureaucratic techniques in the business world, and on the strengths and weaknesses of the machine metaphor. Every chapter of the book is constructed in the same way. May he describe the organization as a brain, a culture or a prison, Gareth Morgan provides a rich resource to help us re-envision it.
The school as an organization
When I first put my hand on Images of Organization my first thought was that someone had made a mistake in my reading list. A requisite read in an online class that I took, the book was clearly not intended for education. But what did I know? After browsing through the introduction, it became clear that the aim of the author was not only to reflect on the management world, but to offer a new and original way of seing all organizations. And a school IS and organization, no? After that, it was easy to put the metaphors in context. The images described by Gareth Morgan found a resonance in my own practice, and helped me to understand the structure of my schools (past and present) in a clearer way. How is leadership organised? What is the importance of the environment on the school way of functioning? How do employees and colleagues get along in the work place? All these questions found a new and meaningful answer when looked at through Morgan’s eight metaphors. Little did I know, this book would be the start of a stimulating reflection on the school system as a whole, and lead me to where I am now, on the path to school leadership.