Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How Mintzberg relates to the Model

Fraser Likely prompted me to look again at the work of Henry Mintzberg (Pictured) this week and I am grateful to him for doing so.

On Mintzberg's site is a reference to a chapter he has written for Developing Theory about the Development of Theory, to appear in Oxford Handbook of Management Theory (Michael Hitt and Ken Smith, editors) called The Invisible World of Association. The paper posits:

We have business and we have government. For too many intents and purposes, we have nothing in between. This distinction has framed the great social debate for more than a century: capitalism versus socialism, markets versus controls, individualism versus collectivism, privatization versus nationalization, “free enterprise” versus “democracy of the proletariat.” The debate features no cooperatives, no NGOs, no not-for-profits, no volunteer organizations, not because they don’t exist—clearly they are present in large numbers—but because they have been forced aside by this simplistic divide.”

It strikes a chord with the Relationship Value Model and does so for this reason.

The Models shows that corporations as well as political and other institutions comprise a coalition of relationships among actors with convergent tokens and values.

It points up that there is not a simplistic divide and goes a step further in showing that even in government and business, it is too simple to lump them together as homogeneous entities. It also shows that the boundaries of these entities are not as rigid or clear cut as one may imagine.

Mintzberg offers us types of association (Activist organisations using advocacy for others, protection associations with advocacy for ourselves, benefit associations offering serviced to others and mutual associations offering services for selves) and I would add that these associations are also not as hard bounded as one might imagine.

This is quite important in public relations practice. It means that we have to be reasonably sure about which coalition of relationships within (and without)organisation is being represented by the public relations programme and, equally which coalition/s is/are the relationship partner.

In each case, such coalitions can be quite broad and, in some instances, can stretch well beyond the bounds of the organisation concerned.

We see this with some campaigning organisations in some cases such as Life Sciences Research, quite blatantly and brutally so. In this instance the campaigning 'association' (to use Mintzberg's term) no longer identifies the company as a the legal entity but as a coalition of related organisations/associations including the New York Stock Exchange.

While direct approaches to organisations can be very effective, this example demonstrates the power of relationship action across the wider nature of a company, their broader nexus of relationships.

This validates the Mintzberg hypothesis which is why his view is so significant yet again.