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Tensions on Organizatinal Traditions Published: Sunday, December 10, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

To say that there is an institutionalized system of organization, is to say that members are able to find credibility and meaning in their organizational surrounding. This does not require that they like the policies, rules and processes around them, only that these organizational events be meaningful for them. The notion of having an institutionalized system of management is nothing less than a sense that the organizational patterns one is living with posses coherence and meaning. The question for any institution is what the new grounds of coherence and meaning will be. How will organizational members and stakeholders maintain a sense of meaningfulness confronted with substantially changed operating conditions?

In the past, the feeling of coherence have resided in the charismatic personalities of leaders, and in the traditions of strong commitment to friendship and family ties, to employees and/or local customers. Some organizations have been filled with missionary zeal for what they do, even if it is fairly mundane. An actual nobility exist in an organization that has succeeded in performing its mission at a high level of excellence over a long period of time. Less glamorous is the meaning of some institutions as being absolute secure or hiding places, thus fostering extraordinary loyalty in members.

More recently we have seen organizations achieve a sense of coherence by an all-out commitment to win, to be number one, be world class. The interesting thing is that this can be in direct contradiction with the obsessive commitment to traditions and rituals of the past, that may work against the kind of flexibility and agility institutions need in order to navigate in the turbulent waters of postmodern competitiveness.

Despite all these efforts to create meaning for organization members, the fixity of product and service qualities are gone, as is the nobility of traditions, ceremonies and rituals. Rapid turnover of both leaders and followers reduces the time people have to build allegiances to wise, reassuring and charismatic leaders, because there aren`t so many. A little bit of iconoclasm… The proliferation of stakeholders with competing, even contradictory claims on the organization and growing stakeholder power, ensure that single-minded identification with on tradition will be hard if not impossible to achieve.

Beyond local events in particular organizations, the last decade have begun to see the crumbling of some institutions on which organizations depend for its existence (financial, telephone system, ground and air transportation, central and local governments, university and educational systems, traditional family structures). Perturbation, crisis and change in these external systems have undercut any given organization`s internal efforts to create stable grounds of meaning.

The question of which are the grounds of coherence is one of key importance, for in all these changes of form, content and function, high-quality-human attitudes, actions, feelings, senses of respect and dignity are as important as ever for the viability of institutions. As the stable system on which we have counted for meaning fall into dismay, high quality human attitudes, behaviors, feelings and emotions become more strategic than ever.


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