Advertisement

Theoretical Analysis: The (In-)Visibility of Decision Contingency in Organizational Communication

Chapter
  • 148 Downloads

Abstract

The issue of decision contingency visibilization (DCV) in project organizations is derived from an abstract question: What are the constitutive conditions for the emergence and stabilization of organizations out of communication? The isomorphic view on the organization-communication relationship (Taylor & van Every, 2000) suggests to grasp organizational communication processes as two-sided phenomena. While the analysis of the organizational side arrives at the conclusion that the visibilization of decision contingency plays a constitutive role for the autopoiesis of organizations, and even more so for project organizations, taking a look on the communicational side can help to develop an understanding of DCV as occurring in communication. In this chapter, this issue is approached by a twofold analytic procedure which links back to the notion of organizations as communications introduced in the previous chapter.

References

  1. 24.
    This does, of course, not deny that also organizations themselves most commonly terminate their existence after a certain life span (cf. Hannan & Freeman, 1977; Quinn & Cameron, 1981).Google Scholar
  2. 25.
    See Walgenbach and Hegele (2001) for a critical account on benchmarking techniques.Google Scholar
  3. 26.
    This is comparable to the way the neurosciences have realized major achievements in understanding the human brain by studying its malfunctioning caused by either congenital abnormalities, tumors, or accidents (cf. Sacks, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. 27.
    Compare to Hendry and Seidl’s work on strategic episodes in organizations (Hendry & Seidl, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. 28.
    According to Luhmann, this understanding does not only apply to the organizational memory but also to the human mind’s memory (cf. Luhmann, 1996).Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    On an economic level, this can be compared to Schumpeter’s notion of “creative destruction” necessary for innovation (Schumpeter, 1943: 83ff.).Google Scholar
  7. 30.
    Seidl concludes that organizational interactions can serve an externalized memory function for the organization: “If a decision is discussed within organizational interactions, the participants are likely to draw on past experiences in connection with similar decision situations, arguments they might have had previously about similar things. Although these communications are inconceivable for the organization they have an effect on the communication that ultimately will be interpreted by the organization as its own decision and will thus have an effect on the organizational autopoiesis. Organizations might, in this sense, instrumentalise interactions for remembering what they themselves have forgotten” (Seidl, 2006b: 167).Google Scholar
  8. 32.
    Baumard and Starbuck share this estimation: “Managers find it easy to explain both large and small failures as having idiosyncratic or exogenous causes that no one could have foreseen, and to rationalize their personal actions in terms with their firm’s core beliefs” (Baumard & Starbuck, 2005: 295).Google Scholar
  9. 33.
    For an extensive account on the role of “fantasy documents” to tame disaster in high-risk settings see Clarke (1999).Google Scholar
  10. 34.
    Totzke (2004: 86) calls attention to the fact that this reliance on textuality corresponds with a dominance of written knowledge in the Western world. Other forms of knowledge oriented communication, be they narrative or anecdotic, are instead seen as deficitary due to their unreliability and fuzziness.Google Scholar
  11. 35.
    Framed this way, genres as communicative practices involve restrictions to selectivity which can presumed to become particularly salient on the level of the utterance selection. Restrictions to the selection of utterance, in turn, can have implications to both remaining selections of communication: information and understanding (cf. Luhmann, 1992); following Te’eni, it can be added that information technology “can affect not only how we communicate but also what we communicate” (Te’eni, 2001: 251; own emphasis added).Google Scholar
  12. 36.
    See Worley and Dyrud (2004) for a recent overview.Google Scholar
  13. 37.
    In this sense, PowerPoint presentations can represent “collaborative mass media” (Rafaeli & LaRose, 1993), defined as combining features of both media of interpersonal communication and mass media, if applied in company-wide databases accessible to multiple users in an organization.Google Scholar
  14. 38.
    The distinction between the documentation and presentation function resembles Habermas’s distinction between communicative rationality (following the goal of mutual understanding) and instrumental rationality (following the goal of achieving successes which lie outside of communication; cf. Habermas, 1987); however, his theorization appears to be incompatible with the paradigmatic framework underlying this study, particularly in its assumption of an objective reality and a generalistic notion of rationality.Google Scholar
  15. 39.
    In this respect, organizations may resemble post-hocracies rather than ad-hocracies (cf. Mintzberg & McHugh, 1985).Google Scholar
  16. 40.
    This, in turn, relativizes McLuhan and Fiore’s classical term: “The medium is the message” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag und VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2008

Personalised recommendations