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    Organizations as Organisms - living organisms, seeking to adapt and survive in a changing environment

    Part A:

    After reading the attached articles (Part 2A Attachment), compare the "military unit" and the "symphony" as examples of different kinds of living systems, noting both similarities and differences and the degree to which applying systems thinking helps you understand both. With this in mind, please be sure to address the following issues, along with presenting any other ideas about this concept that you find interesting to assist me with this problem such as:

    1. What are the most important system problems faced by the military unit? How does it routinely deal with them?

    2. What are the most important system problems faced by the orchestra? How does it routinely deal with them?

    3. How are the military unit and the orchestra similar in terms of how they function as living systems?

    4. Does a systems approach to these two kinds of organizations highlight any important differences between them (leaving aside the obvious contrast between an M-15 and a viola as tools of the trade)

    5. Consider for a moment a university such as UMUC. Considering them all as living systems, does the university seem more like a military unit or more like the orchestra? Explain your answer, referring to system properties as needed.

    6. To what degree do you see the idea of a living system as helpful to someone trying to understand an unfamiliar organization? Why?

    7. What, if anything, that thinking about an "organization as an organism" adds to what we have learned by thinking about an "organization as a machine".

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    Solution Preview

    The Military Unit as Part of the Armed Forces' Economic System
    An Analysis

    First, according to Kelly as quoted by Joe Flower (1995), an organization's similarity with a living organism based on the "organization's reason for being, [which is] like that of any organism, is to help the parts that are in relationship to each other, to be able to deal with change in the environment" (Flower, 1995). The student interprets this as an organization, like a living organism, in order to survive vis-à-vis its dynamic environment where change is a continuous process would have to adopt constantly by learning. In other words, an organization that learns is a learning organization - that is, an organism which refuses to adopt will risk being booted out of the system. Charles Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest comes to mind.

    Second, a learning organization can be defined as "one in which all members are individually and collectively willing in heart and in mind to go deeper and broader in their learning process" (Ng, 2004, p. 95). The learning organization paradigm and the concept of knowledge management have received substantial discussion in the literature since the publication of Senge's (1990) seminal book The Learning Organization. The same was extensively discussed by Argyris and Schon, 1996; Armstrong and Foley, 2003; Bierly, Kessler, and Christensen, 2000; Cohen, 1998; Davis and Botkin, 1994; Dowd, 2000; Dumaine, 1994; Ellerman, 1999; Davenport and Prusak, 1998; Drucker, 1997. The literature stresses that organizations can create a key source of competitive advantage, embrace innovation, and improve bottom-line results by developing capabilities for knowledge management and becoming a learning organization (Albert 2006, p. 17).

    Third, the military unit, as an independent organization and as a part of a larger organization, faces similar problems which are everyday occurrences for a business and for profit organization which is struggling to transform itself from an ordinary entity to a learning organization to an effective organism. An example of these problems is the difficulty of management in convincing the different components of the organization to adopt the changes the organization must in order to survive, to develop and maintain its competitive advantages. A military unit, an entity which is comprised of individuals from different backgrounds with different cultural and behavioral orientation, is understandably would find a portion or majority of the organization is resistant to changes. However, the researcher believes that the new management paradigm, specifically the learning ...

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