Friday, July 15, 2011

Bennett (2001) Organisational Theory - Part II


Bennett outlines four main structural aspects in an organization:

  1. physical structures

  2. work structures

  3. task structures

  4. impact of external factors on structures

PHYSICAL STRUCTURES - are "deliberately constructed to organise what work is done and how it is done" p 104 - Libraries maybe open planned and therefore the structuring of the work carried in them will be impacted by the physical building.

WORK STRUCTURES - "... influence the way that organizational members do their work and the colleagues with whom they have to interact on a formal, work-related, non-social basis." p. 104 In schools this applies to students and staff alike. Roll Call or pastoral care system maybe organized horizontally or vertically, dictating what year groups or cohort interact, when and how.

TASK STRUCTURES - "... relates to the responsibilities that individuals discharge and the tasks they carry out." Job descriptions are a good example of how tasks are structured within an organization. JOB DESCRIPTIONS define responsibilities and tasks and managerial accountability, organizational charts demonstrates the inter-relationship of the jobs and tasks within an organization. Job descriptions can be proscriptive - strict procedures, rules and protocols outlines within them - which can kill off dynamism and become inflexible or rigid. Inherent value of the particular task/job is outline with the monetary reward for the job within the organization. (VALUE) - Bennett then flirts with the debate over performance-based pay for teachers - again something that I am not a fan of - it didn't in the cases I saw in England - philosophical sound, very hard to make practicable.


Legal, (OH&S, Child Protection) for example provide formal constraints with which organizations such as school need to comply.

Legislative - Teaching awards - pay scales, accreditation etc NAPLAN, HSC and SC external examinations etc.

"Organizational structures only start to have any meaning when they relate to individual actions." p. 106 ... the significance of organizational structure for organizational members lies in the ways in which they define their relations with colleagues and the arenas within which they are able to make decisions"

"Structures, then, both create and are created by power relationship. They are dynamic: simultaneously static and fluid, fixed and changing." (p. 107)

The concept of POWER. Bennett takes it to be dependent on two things:

  1. how central the individual is to the issue under consideration and the decision that has to be taken

  2. the extent to which the structure allow the freedom to decide how to act in response (discretion)

What do individuals bring to the situation?

  • cognitive knowledge - possible actions which could be taken

  • an affective valuation of the situation - judgement

  • 'cathectic sense of how we ourselves related to the situation - our role

  • directive sense of being required to make a decision - what to do?

Young (1981) calls this our "assumptive world" - an active and continuous process - which is yet just another dynamic piece of the organizational puzzle.


What is organizational culture? "the way we do things around here", "shared values and norms", "the way an organization solves problems and achieves goals and maintains itself".

Schein (1992) includes within an organization's culture what members believe their work involves and requires and the consequent organizational decisions that result both structural and physical.

All this is quite pertinent to the role of the TL. How the TL perceives their role within the learning community will of course impact on the physical structuring of the library and the manner in which work and task structures are responded to under or within the constraints of the external factors.

Culture as distinctive rather than integrative - Bennett believes that the culture of an organization CAN be the distinguishing factor, as it is unique. Its advantages is that it can give more room for variation and allows members of the organization to "buffer" themselves against influences which they they disapprove - in education, especially the public system, this is more often than not external factors. (page 108)


The norms and rules which dictate those who work within the education sector are partly derived from, according to Bennett, "the concept of the work in which the organization is engaged." So to many within and without the learning community - the core business is clear - to improve the students' educational achievements. This understandings begins in the outside community - is often scrutinised quite closely and definitely held accountable by the various stakeholders, parents, public and politicians. Culture of any organization is therefore a CONSTRUCT, made by internal and external factors. Structures and cultures for any organization can deliver FREEDOM or CONSTRAINTS. Structures create the paradigm of Freedom or Constraint - the individual with react to those freedoms or constraints THEREBY creating the CULTURE.

WHERE DO THE EXPECTATIONS THAT DEFINE LEGITIMATE ACTION COME FROM AND HOW DO THEY BECOME APART OF THE ASSUMPTIVE WORLDS OF EACH ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBER? These need to be answered in order for any real progress to be made in the area of school effectiveness research or school improvement. Bennett contends that it isn't happening as the fundamental premise of the research being undertaken.


Hegemony (Gramsci 1971 and Lukes 1974) as a concept rests on the idea that domination and control rest simultaneously on both coercion and consent. Or "the active consent of dominated groups" (Clegg 1989) which needs to be "generated and sustained." p. 109 Organizations which are significant in "generating this active consent" are the Church, schools, trade unions and mass media. p. 109.

Disciplinary power (Foucault 1977) "emphasizes the way in which state apparatuses are at work to control not just how individuals act but how they think" p. 110 which has been developed through "techniques of surveillance" where the power is "derived ... in the potential to observe, and thence, to discipline and punish misbehaviour." Clegg (1989) uses religious rules and systems to illustrate the ways in which norms and rituals become part and parcel of the manner in which "disciplinary power is exercised". Importantly, Foucault's view of power is that "it does not see power as negative", relating power to view of self-discipline, where structures and cultures can be empowering for an individual, in order for them to be productive.

Burrell (1998) says that "power resides in a network of interconnected relationships." So for Bennett "It is through the day-to-day working out of these 'minute and diffuse power relations' that our organizational members' assumptive worlds are formed and influenced." p. 111 To continue Bennett's rather glass half full analysis of Foucault and discipline - personal power can be perceived as something that a member of an organization can wield in every aspect of their day-to-day job. It is obviously dependent on many factors but to see oneself as having power to exert influence, no matter how small must feel much more positive then feeling like a beast of burden being exploited by THE MAN on a daily basis.


Bennett sees structures operating through relationships and if relationally, within any organization "minute and diffuse power relations exist" then power connects to organizational cultural as a given. Or logically. There does, however, need to be an explanation of the establishing and maintenance of the values and norms of the organization. Schein (1992) the values and norms are initially derived from the founder. As Bennett points out "these views of culture creation and maintenance as a deliberate activity invest particular individuals with a great deal of power to direct the actions and behaviours of others."p. 111

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