Organized systems and the ambiguities of behavior and change. Lessons from universities and jazz orchestras
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- ISL Working Papers 
Institutional change entails balancing multiple competing, inconsistent and often loosely coupled demands and concerns, often simultaneously. The ambition of this chapter is to discuss how organizations balance seemingly conflicting patterns of behaviour and change. Two common dynamics often observed in organizations are discussed below: First, organizations viewed as sets of formal structures and routines that systematically bias organizational performance and change, and secondly, organizations as loosely coupled structures that enable improvisation with respect to organizational performance and change. How organizations live with and practice such seemingly contradictory dynamics is empirically illuminated in two types of organizations that are seldom analysed in tandem – university organizations and jazz orchestras. These conflicting organizational dynamics pinpoint one classical dilemma in university and jazz life beleaguered on the inherent trade-off between instrumental design and the logic of hierarchy on the one hand and individual artistic autonomy and professional neutrality on the other. ‘[T]he purpose of developing the jazz metaphor is to draw out the collaborative, spontaneous and artful aspects of organizing in contradiction to the engineered, planned and controlled models that dominate modern management thoughts’ (Hatch 1999: 4). This dilemma highlights competing understandings of organizational life, of institutional change, and of what the pursuit of organizational goals ultimately entails.
Presentation on department page: http://www.uia.no/no/portaler/om_universitetet/oekonomi_og_samfunnsvitenskap/statsvitenskap_og_ledelsesfag/ forskning_isl/isl_working_papers_series