Family Organizing for Productivity

The Organized Family

The family unit has been examined by many and varied experts. While I make no pretense of being an expert in any subject, I would like to examine the family in an environment in which I have some familiarity through a long work history and also from some formal study of that environment – the structured organization.

The Family as an Organization

The premise is made (Robbins, 1974, 3) that:

Those who have the responsibility for deciding the direction an organization will take and who hold the authority to move it toward its goals are the single most important factor in determining an organization’s success or failure.  Whether in business, education, government, medicine, or religion, the quality of an organization’s administrators will determine its success.  Successful administrators will anticipate change, vigorously exploit opportunities, correct poor performance, and lead the organization toward its objectives.

Mr. Robbins (4) further states that: “Three distinct criteria define the role of an administrator in an organization.  The first is the creation of and adherence to a set of goals.”  The second is that “there must be limited resources.”  “The need for two or more people is the third and last prerequisite for administration.”

Mr. Robbins (4), in summary, states that “administrators work through people and allocate scarce resources to achieve goals.  Should any one of these criteria be missing, there is no need for administration.  From a different perspective, we can define administration in functional terms: It is planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating the performance of others toward specific ends.”

Although Mr. Robbins does not specifically address the family unit, the factors described do fit the family model to a great extent.  The failure to adequately perform the described functions in the family leads society to much of the misdirection and conflict we observe around us.  Conflict resolution is a major task for the administrator (or family head), and Mr. Robbins believes that conflict resolution is the key to successful administration.

Knowledge/information is power!  This statement is often made, and its use and abuse in organizations is a source of much, if not most, organizational conflict.  And those who operate/control organizational nodes (supervisors/managers) can make or break a subordinate’s or other manager’s career through control of information flow, interpretation of information, assignments, information filtering, and information use.  This process I have observed and experienced, first hand, in many different situations.  By operating at the node, information flow and access is through them in the formal organization.  Through control of information flow, interpretation, and filtering, managers control/impact the performance of the subordinate or other manager by depriving them of or ensuring them of adequate information to perform their function.  In this way they can enhance or detract from their performance.  Through assignments and use of the information they determine who gets credit and advancement.  For the unscrupulous manager, this is a very powerful weapon.  Defense against this type abuse is very difficult.  The victim has to rely largely on the informal organization for support.  Secrets and lack of information about what is going on in the family unit are also very stressful.  It can be very divisive.  One author (Baron 1986, 353) states that “….reactions to the use of power can be deadly to both satisfaction and productivity.  Thus, it is important that they be avoided.”

Management, as a function and benefit of their occupancy of nodes in the communications channels, “feeds” upon the capabilities and knowledge of all those who are subject to their influence, both within and outside their own organization.  This allows them immense leverage of their own capabilities and knowledge, and selective sharing of this information and influence is a powerful force and weapon.

In some organizations, the lack of sharing of information becomes a characteristic of the organizational culture.  Apparently, sharing of information is perceived to be detrimental to the stature and/or position and advancement of the individual.  If the information is shared, they are no longer perceived as the “expert.”  This attitude is very destructive to the health and performance of the organization.  This characteristic seems to be more prevalent in organizations populated by “professionals” than in those not claiming to be professionals.  I have experienced this type environment for several years, and have heard many comments and discussions on its consequences.  Management skillfully ignores attempts to correct the practice. The family suffers from many of the above organization deficiencies and failures.

Robbins, Stephen P., Managing Organizational Conflict, a Nontraditional Approach, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974.  156 pp.

Baron, Robert A. and Jerald Greenberg, Behavior in Organizations, Understanding and Managing the Human Side of Work, Second Edition. Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1986.  514 pp.


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