Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Functions of the Executive: Chester Barnard and Organization Theory

I originally wrote this entry on August 18, 2004 and published it on

Earlier, I quoted the summary of Chester Barnard's views on the individual and on why we cooperate with each other in organizations.

Here, I'll quote the summary of his views on the total context of organized cooperation and on how cooperation changes the very context of organizations.

Cooperation is the social aspect of the total situation and social factors arise form it. These factors may be in turn the limiting factors of any situation. This arises from two considerations: (a) The process of interaction must be discovered or intervened, just as a physical operation may be discovered and intervened (b) the interaction changes the motives and interest of those participating in the cooperation. (The Functions of the Executive, p. 60.)

From my own experience, item (a) in the above is primarily about change and strategy. If you want to remove a limiting factor, you may organize yourself in a band or a group. On the other hand, item (b) is about the dialectics that follows, making strategic behavior a cause of its own demise. More importantly, item (b) is about changes in motivation and interest which affect the participant in an organization simply through their participation.

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