An earlier version of this essay was first published as Chapter 8, "The School as an Organization" in Gary K. Clabaugh & Edward G. Rozycki
Understanding Schools: the Foundations of Education (1990) NewYork: Harper & Rowe.--EGR

edited 2/13/20 - egr


There is a strong tendency in human society for the unorganized group to develop organization and for organizations to develop even where there has been no consciousness of a group previously, in which case the organization itself creates the group it expresses and embodies. Consequently, group conflict tends easily to pass over into organizational conflict, and the growth of organizations themselves may create conflict where no previous consciousness of conflict existed. 

-- Kenneth E. Boulding Conflict and Defense: a general theory [1]



Schooling: Education vs. Organization

Basic Internal Conflicts

Theory X, Theory Y and Theory Z

The Pathology of Domination

monocratic power

Models of Organizations

Task Analysis

The Implementation Models

Decision in Organizations

Reform Proposals


            In this essay we look at the school as an organization. Many people, when they think of an organization, tend to think of it as a group of people working towards a common goal. Much literature about education depicts schools in this way. This conception of organization, however, is strongly biased by Temple and Factory images of the school. In fact, by focussing on presumed common goals, we easily lose sight of the conflicts that generate schooling controversies.

            We will approach organizations from a different perspective . We will consider an organization to be a social structure which allocates costs and benefits, both symbolic and substantial. This way of looking at the schools is made possible by the development of organization theory. There are many different aspects to this broad subject and we can go into only a few of them here. Organization theory ranges, for example, from studies of the effects of management, of bureaucratic structures, or of technology, to the systems of motivation and learning established in an organization. Of particular interest is the ability of organization theory to account for the failure of past school reform efforts. It also gives us indication as to what kinds of school reform are likely to take hold.

            To begin, we examine some standard kinds of conflict that arise in organizations and how they show up in schools. We will learn that different conceptions of human nature underlie different conceptions of organizations. We will see that relations of power among people determine to some extent these perceptions of human nature. Finally, we will look at different models of organizational structure and relate them to our images of the school: Temple, Factory and Town Meeting.

            The images of the school we presented earlier were based primarily on expectations. Temple, Factory and Town Meeting are expectation models of the school. A model is a schematic, an image which depicts the relationship of parts to the whole. So far, we have dealt with rather informally conceived models based on the expectations of people traditionally involved with schools, e.g. parents, students, teachers, administrators. Now we will consider a set of rather formal organizational models deriving from a concern with implementation. Contrasting and comparing implementation models with our expectation models, we will see that the notion of authority, control and policy varies with them.

Introduction: making sense of it all

            To the untutored eye, many things make no sense. To someone who knows nothing about the depth of cultural difference common situations of cultural conflict would make no sense. Similarly, not knowing about the functions of conflict, many people fail to understand why conflict persists when all involved desire to end it. Organization theory gives us another dimension of understanding. It helps us see that many situations we might otherwise see as a matter of personality conflicts, or, maybe, incompetence, are in fact a matter of organizational structure.

            In a large Eastern city, half-day classes are held for about a week in the middle of the year for "reorganization." The kids are sent home while teachers are given twelve hours to do paperwork. Since this paperwork needs no special skill to do, everybody's first reaction is that the situation "makes no sense." Why should teachers be given secretarial work, while the kids lose out on instruction? Narrow focus on the professed mission of the school, instruction, provides no answer. Organizationally, however, we can discern a rationale. Indeed, if we examine the costs and benefits of the practice, its reasonableness becomes clear.

•The paperwork done is absolutely essential for the continuance of certain funds by the State and Federal government.

•Requests for budget money allotted for the additional secretarial help needed to complete the "reorganization" paperwork would be subject to review by a cost-conscious schoolboard.

•The costs of using teachers are easily hidden. They get no additional salary for doing paperwork. It is merely a reallotment of time that need pass no budget review and remains at the discretion of school administration.

This practice is clearly an intelligent trade-off in a tight situation. Its benefits are clear and its costs are hidden. But it takes an overview of the school as an organization to understand it as "making sense," even if we still believe it is an undesirable practice.

Schooling: Education vs. Organization

            We know that schooling and education are not the same. Education pursues values that may not be realized in actual schools. And neither is socialization and education the same. As children learn to adapt themselves to the social situations they must cope with, they may not reach the goals their community aspires to. In studying the organization of the schools we learn how different organizational structures influence the socialization of children in ways which may undermine as well as support educational goals.

            The way schools work often has greater effect on what students learn than what their teachers try to do. Here is an example. For administrative convenience, some schools require final grades to be entered weeks before summer vacation begins. This is supposed to be a top secret. Invariably students find out about it. When they question their teachers about it, the teachers, following administrative directive reply that no grades are final and that any slacking off will be reflected in a lower grade. The students not only disbelieve this, they understand the teachers to be lying. Worse, they take them for fools to persist in lying in the face of common knowledge. Imagine the moral lessons these students come to learn, just for the sake of organizational convenience!!

            Here is another real example where crossed purposes produce questionable results. A principal of a large high school, feeling that school spirit is low, has senior and junior students brought to the auditorium for a pep rally the day before a major football game. At first the students are unenthused, but as bugles blare and drums boom and sparcely clad cheerleaders somersault , interest is aroused. Finally, the whole auditorium is on its feet, shouting, "Go!, Go! Go Team! Go!" Then the bell rings for change of class. "Go!, Go! Go Team! Go!" the students continue to chant, in their frenzy oblivious of the bell. The vice-principal in charge of assemblies runs onto stage and turning the volume up on the PA system yells at the students to shut up and sit down. His thundering commands, electronically amplified to the point of audial pain, eventually overpower the crowd. Red-faced, he tells that students that he is disgusted by their blatant disregard for school procedures. "That bell is the signal for you to quiet down and pass on to the next class!" he scolds. The students shuffle out, no doubt having learned a sad lesson about the meaning of school spirit and the need to respect school procedures.

            Teachers work hard at trying to develop industriousness in their students. They also try to get them to develop an interest in their studies that will motivate them through much of the drudgery of learning. But what happens all to often when they have a class humming along through a lesson? An announcement on the loudspeaker interrupts the class. Or, the bell rings signaling the end of the class period. Or, a suprise fire drill or visit from the principal stops the lesson. No doubt these all serve organizational purposes. But what lessons do the students learn about the relative importance of their studies to the importance of announcements, scheduling convenience, fire drills and principal observations? Is it any wonder that the most common complaint of high school teachers is that students show little, if any, interest in their studies? Perhaps they have been socialized out of it.

            To reiterate, it is important for school people to recognize that many school problems are generated by organizational structure rather than to mistake them for shortcomings in themselves or their students. They should also be careful of those who firmly deny this possibility. Anyone who insists that there are no organizational problems may have a hidden agenda to reinforce his or her authority through guilt and feelings of inadequacy.[2]

Basic Internal Conflicts

            The school is a complex organization. Complex organizations, by mere virtue of their complexity, run up against four basic internal conflicts.[3] These are

• following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences

• delegating authority vs. pursuing authorized goals.

• process vs. product

• power vs. morale.

Dealing with these school conflicts is not merely a matter of more dedication or self-discipline on the part of individuals. Nor is it a matter of patience or forbearance or charisma. What must be addressed is the structure of relationships that constitute the organization. We will examine each of these conflicts in that way.

Following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences

            A basic organizational conflict is that of following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences. Robert K. Merton[4] investigated how following policy reduces sensitivity to individual differences. This conflict, for example, is the basis of the persistent tension in trying to follow a school policy providing equal educational opportunity that also tries to address the individual needs of the child. This issue came up first in chapter two as a conflict in disciplinary goals between the Temple and the Factory. Is consistency more desirable than the effectiveness of individualized treatment? This tension between policy and sensitivity can be seen in a variety of school problems and practices.[5] For example,

• the conflict of teaching a class according to a standardized curriculum vs. making adjustments according to the readiness of individual students.

• restrictions, for fear of legal liability, on outside-of-school activities to enhance the curriculum

•the establishment of mathematical formulas for generating grades rather than relying on teacher judgment.

•the use of standardized tests for college admissions to supplement, sometimes replace, secondary school records and recommendations.

Delegating authority vs. pursuing authorized goals

            Philip Selznick [6] finds that as authority is delegated to them, organization members pursue their personal goals more strongly. Teachers have moral and professional goals and these not infrequently come in conflict with school procedures and policies. For example, a teacher may be put in charge of discipline and ignore a policy that requires students who fight to be suspended automatically. He or she may take into consideration, for example, that students who are bullied ought not be punished along with the bullies.

            On the other hand, principals have neither time nor energy to check up on every detail of the school's functioning.. A well-running school necessarily involves teachers in much of what the public would consider administrative work, e.g. rostering, discipline, trip planning, admissions. This puts teachers in the position of exercising discretion on matters of policy. They often then make decision on the basis of what they see as the merits of the case rather than on the basis of policies and procedures.

            The basic conflict between delegation of authority and the pursuit of authorized goals is a matter of the extent to which resources allotted for the public goals of the schools, e.g. instruction, are diverted to other uses. This is not a matter of dishonesty but a difference in perception of what is needed to carry out a task. School boards and citizen's committees tend to underestimate the resources needed -- from an educator's point of view -- to accomplish the goals they profess to esteem. The organizational reality is that people on site have to have a good deal of discretion in determining how resources are used, or the job has no chance of getting done.

            Some common practices which negotiate the conflict between delegation of authority and the pursuit of authorized goals are the following:

•Teachers use instructional time to have students decorate the classroom or the halls.

•Principals may call special assemblies to free staff for committee work.

•Teachers change the curriculum at will to reflect their personal tastes and priorities.

Of course, every one of these practices is given an educational justification so that it appears to be serving the pursuit of the goals it is deviating from. In fact, these practices often serve worthy goals. But they are not ones for which there is wide consensus on funding.

Process vs. Product

            Luther Gulick [7] finds a conflict between a focus on product and a focus on process. The essential questions are how should we divide our attention between these two concerns? And, when they conflict, which should take precedence?

            Are people given projects which they follow out to completion? If so, this is product oriented activity. If they are given repetitive piecemeal things to do, this is process orientation. Teaching is a bit of both. Lessons can be planned with product orientation. Teachers usually get to see some development and completion over a span of time. On the other hand, they don't get to see really long range effects, say, from first through twelfth grade. Process orientation can be done more cheaply if common activities are pooled, but there is no one responsible to see to it that completion occurs. They can always blame someone in the previous stage of the process for failure. In this sense, schools are process-oriented. Kids are pooled for common treatment because it is less expensive to do so. Careerwise, there is no overall attention given to students. Economies of scale reduce the effectiveness with which goals are achieved.

            Situations which point to an underlying conflict between process and product orientation are these:

•School district consolidation vs. "small school" virtues such as school spirit, a feeling of sharing, a personal knowledge of all members of the school community.[8]

•Subject-matter focus and departmentalization in high schools vs. learner-centered focus and concern with development.[9]

•Standardized testing and curriculum vs. the concern for the "specialness" of students.

•Class-size and teacher feelings of frustration in reaching kids.[10]

Power vs. Morale

            Coercion is as essential a component of command as prescription or kinship. Ideally it should remain implicit, and when made explicit should manifest itself as rarely as possible as physical force, except in extreme emergency never falling arbitrarily or threatening the majority. Once a commander becomes as much an enemy to his followers as the enemy himself -- and what else is a commander who breathes fire and sword against his own men? -- the mystification of his role is destroyed and his power, essentially an artificial construct, dissipated beyond hope of recall. -- John Keegan, The Mask of Command [11]

            So strong are the images of Temple and Factory that people are reluctant to admit to the use of power both in individual motivation and in school relationships. People tend to find issues of power discomforting. Focussing on policies, rules, procedures and the like offers an escape from dealing with the role of power in organizations. Abraham Zaleznick comments

...executives are reluctant to acknowledge the place of power both in individual motivation and in organizational relationships. Somehow, power and politics are dirty words. And in linking these words to the play of personalities in organizations, some managers withdraw into the safety of organizational logics.[12]

            Alvin Ward Gouldner[13] , studying highly monocratic organizations, found that the desire to hide power-relations conflicts with getting more than minimal cooperation from organization members. If you don't yell, they don't work! However, some theorists take this to be an indication of organizational pathology. Why should we expect people to perform only when intimidated? What is it about an organization that its goals can only be achieved through compulsion?

            The issue of power in schools goes right to the heart of the professionalization controversy that we presented in Chapter 4. Schools are in flux with respect to the power issue. Thus the power vs. morale conflict will vary depending upon the prerogatives accorded school people throughout the organization. Some situations that illustrate the power vs. morale conflict are these:

•Teachers are demoralized to discover that their textbooks have been selected for them by their local school board committee.

•Classroom morale may be negatively affected by a teacher's unnecessary expressions of authority.[14]

•School spirit sinks as bullying becomes widespread. This is why New Jersey principal, Joe Clark, with his baseball bat raises the morale of those student he protects from the illegitimate power of bullying as he lowers the morale of staff members who see him himself as a kind of bully.

Chart 8.1 summarizes the basic conflicts with examples.



    1. following policy vs
sensitivity to individual differences

    2. delegating authority vs
authorized goals

    3. process vs product

    4. power vs. morale


    1. standardization vs
individualization of curriculum

    2. Instructional vs non-instructional
use of time and equipment

    3. Big-School vs Small-School outcomes

    4. coercion vs commitment

Chart 8.1

Theory X, Theory Y and Theory Z

            We saw in the previous section that there is a basic conflict between power and morale. How much use of power is necessary in an organization? Is low morale a disadvantage? We will see that answers to these questions depend upon what one believes about human nature.

            Why do people join an organization, stay in it and work for its goals? Chester I. Barnard's classic response to this question is that the benefits outweigh the costs.[15] But how one conceives of human beings and their relationship to organizations has a lot to do with costs and benefits. An interesting and pertinent set of contrasts has been developed by Douglas McGregor [16]. McGregor calls these contrasts Theory X and Theory Y. William Ouchi [17], examining successful Japanese corporations, expanded McGregor's distinctions with his own Theory Z. These theories are, of course, idealizations. They purport less to describe how organizations in fact function than to prescribe how organizations should be structured in order to function best.[18]

Human Nature and Commitment

            Theory X basically describes people as lazy and needing compulsion to work. Theory Y says that if people are committed to the organization, they show all sorts of leadership qualities. Theory Z recommends that the organization, rather than demand commitment from its people, be committed to its people. Chart 8.2 presents these contrasts with additional information about the theories.

Chart 8.2

            If we reconsider our basic organizational conflicts in light of theories X, Y and Z, it would seem that organizations that conformed to the different theories could avoid certain conflicts, particularly those having to do with internal relations. Theory X, expecting the worst of people, would find all four of the basic conflicts possible. Theory Y, on the other hand, by pursuing relationships that trust and empower organization members to act, would probably avoid the conflict of power with morale. Theory Z, by looking to organizational members for the goals to pursue, might uncut the possibility of the conflict between delegating authority and authorized goals. Chart 8.3 illustrates these points.

Chart 8.3

Whether people espouse Theory X or Y or Z is going to determine whether the conflict between morale and power will come up. But this goes both ways. There is evidence that whether they adopt an X or Y or Z type theory in their relationships with others depends upon the nature of that relationship.

            This jibes with our common experience in schools. Teachers who complain that administrators are "autocratic," often tend to be as autocratic when they become administrators. This consideration leads us to suspect that role has a lot to do with behavior and perceptions . In the next section we will examine how members of different groups tend to see others in an X or Y framework depending upon the roles they play in an organization and the power-relations among them.

Monocratic Power

Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
                                                                        -- Lord Acton

            Lord Acton's saying is famous. But is it true? How exactly does power corrupt? It does so by changing our perceptions of the people over whom we have power or who have power over us. This tempts us to deal with them in ways that may undermine both our personal and our common interests.

            An interesting set of studies by Kenwyn K. Smith [19] indicates that where organizations are monocratic, i.e. power is concentrated rather than distributed, certain ways of perceiving subordinate or superior groups develop. These fixed ways of perceiving others, which Smith calls "encasements", generate very difficult problems for each of the groups in an organization.

            If we consider a monocratic organization as comprised of three groups, powerholders, implementers and lowers, [20] we can map out the relationships between them. Powerholders control resources, money, influence, police power. Implementers attempt to adjust the directives of the powerholders to the realities of the situation to which their directives are addressed. "Lowers" are those left in the organization, subject to the will of the powerholders, and the administrations of the implementers, lacking power of their own. Smith found that these three groups had different ways of perceiving themselves and others. They also used handled conflicts in characteristically different ways.

            If we look at schools, we find that the monocratic relationships of powerholder-implementer-lower are relative. They depend upon whom we are focussing on. In the school building, a principal may be a powerholder, whereas at a board meeting he may be a "lower." In a small New England town Smith found that the relative position of different parties in a monocratic relationship depended upon the parties in question. The parties considered were:

• The Public

• Local Politicians

• The Board of Education

• Superintendent

• Principals

• Teachers

• Students

Smith focussed on the Board of Education, the Superintendent and the Principals and found that each filled the role of powerholder, implementer and lower with respect to someone else. Chart 8.4 shows the relationships.

Chart 8.4

If we focus on the principals we can see that they are powerholders in relation to the teachers, who are implementers, and the students, who are lowers. The principals are implementers in relation to the superintendent, who is a powerholder, and the teachers, who are implementers. The principal is a lower in relationship to the Board of Education, who are powerholders, and the superintendent, who is an implementer.

The Pathology of Domination

I don't want her to work, and I don't want her to go to school. What for? She doesn't have to. She's got plenty to keep her busy right here.

                                    -- husband speaking of his wife in Worlds of Pain[21]

            The warning in Smith's research is that when monocratic relationships stabilize, they "encase", that is, imprison, the perceptions of particular groups in a pathological manner. Powerholders tend to have little insight into the consequences of their own behavior on other people. They are pessimistic about the competency of other groups and tend to delegate responsibility but not sufficient resources. They also tend to withhold information to create dependencies in other groups upon them, the powerholders. They react to conflict with other groups by being punitive, assertive and withholding resources. Within their own group, however, they tend to ignore conflict and tolerate dissidence. Those most charismatic among them dominate.

            In contrast, implementers find themselves caught up in the need to relate to both powerholders and lowers. They tend to be optimistic and systemic thinkers who base their decisions in moral and ethical frameworks. They are information sharers and brokers. But faced with conflict from other groups they become disoriented, indecisive and impotent. Within their own ranks they handle conflict by seeking common understandings, employing what they believe are effective techniques of conflict resolution. (The irony in Smith's research came with his realization that as a researcher he was not someone external to these encasements. He was, willy-nilly, by virtue of his interests and pursuits, an implementer.[22])

            Lacking power, lowers suffer from yet another encasement. They are caught up in behavior that maintains group protection and unity. They may give the appearance to others that they "just don't care." They are suspicious of implementers and power-holders and adopt a reactive attitude toward them. Like power-holders they withhold information, but being unable to create dependency, they do it to preserve group unity. They handle conflict from without by increasing cohesion and commiting to group unity and from within by suppression of dissent.

            Chart 8.5 summarizes and compares the particulars of monocratic power relationships.

Chart 8.5

            Depending upon the extent to which schools fit different models of organization, the possibilities of domination can be reduced. [23] By relating the theory of encasements to theories X, Y and Z, we can begin to understand how the power relationships among people work their way into the structure of schools. Both Temple and Factory tend to be monocratic. The flow of power is top down and sets the stage for encasement problems. A benefit of the Town Meeting image of the school is that it does not have the unidirectional flow of power that can produce the encasement pathologies. Power flows in many directions. People within the Town Meeting are exposed to various power roles. This variation undermines perceptual encasements.. We might well worry that any attempt to strengthen the Temple or Factory aspects of schooling risk producing encasement pathologies.

Models of Organizations

            An organization is social structure which allocates costs and benefits, both symbolic and substantial. Because Organization Theory is an independent discipline with its own history, it treats organizations in a different way from what we have done with our images of the school as temple, factory and town meeting. (The reader is encouraged to further study of this important discipline.[24] ) But there are other ways of looking at the school. Important research has been done on how programs have succeeded or failed that explain their results in terms of implementation models. We will examine a set of organizational models that derives from such a concern with the implementation of reform legislation. The contrasts with our original images, expectation models of the school, will be examined.

Expectation vs. Implementation: a new set of organizational models.

            In chapter 2 we proposed three models of the school. Each model had associated with it an image. The basis for the distinction among the models was a sorting out of different kinds of expectations, respectively, for propriety, community and nurturance, for effectiveness and for negotiability.[25] Chart 8.6 shows these relationships.

Model Image Related Expectations

Moral Community

Productive Organization

Political Marketplace



Town Meeting

Propriety, community, nurture



Chart 8.6

            There are many kinds of moral community and many kinds of productive organization. Because it simplifies the discussion, we have let the images from Chapter 2 associated with each model represent the model. This will suffice for this chapter, although we will also have reason in later chapters to distinguish between different images of different models. We will see, for example, that there are different kinds of productive organization and that the Factory is only one image of it. We will suggest that a different kind of productive organization might be able to handle the difficulties in present school organization. But for this chapter, Temple, Factory and Town Meeting serve as our expectation models of the school as an organization.

            Who exactly carries out the tasks in an organization can substantially affect its success. In a school, implementation power affects student achievement. Richard F. Elmore, focussing on problems of the implementation of social programs, presents four models of the organization. [26]. Chart 8.7 contrasts and compares our expectation models of the school with Elmore's implementation models.

Chart 8.7

We can see that the boundaries are somewhat different. Where we find Temple and Factory in the expectation models, Elmore has broken them up into the Organizational Development model, the Systems Management model and the Bureaucratic model. These new implementation models share characteristics of the expectation models they overlap. Elmore's Conflict and Bargaining Model corresponds to our Town Meeting. The importance of distinguishing among these models is that program implementation can fail in different ways, depending upon the model used to examine the organization.

            If we wish to ask of a proposed reform, "What can go wrong?", we have to consider which model of the school we are using for our analysis. The Systems management model conceives the school to be something like a large computer that the proper programming controls. Its failures are primarily failures in planning. The Bureaucratic model recognizes that in complex organizations implementation power is spread throughout the organization. Most actions taken are routine and derived from policy. Success in this model is a matter of adapting routines to reflect policy and making sure that power centers deliver the goods. The Organizational Development model sees effective organizations as reflecting the consensus and commitment of its members. Where such consensus is lacking, failure follows. Finally, the Conflict and Bargaining model sees success as a matter of one group's having sufficient power to impose its conceptions of policy on others. Chart 8.8 illustrates these differences.:

Figure 8.8

            Why must we complicate things with an additional set of models? Because the research that has been done with them is important. And because they give us another perspective to examine that very complex reality that is the school. In fact, there are other models we could use but they don't serve our purposes as well. This is as complicated as it needs to get. We need only distinguish between our original expectation models of the school, Temple, Factory and Town Meeting, and these four new implementation models. Clearly, however, it is important that we understand more about these new models and how they illuminate that organization we call the school.

Task Analysis: How can things go wrong?

            It's a simple task to row your friend across a stream in a canoe. But it's not a simple thing, even if it's possible, for the U.S. navy to transport 2000 sailors across that same stream in an aircraft carrier. Simple tasks may not be simple for a complex organization.

            It's not unusual for a parent to drop into school and ask that his or her child's fotgotten gym shorts be brought to them by a certain period. The bigger the school, the less likely this simple task will be accomplished. Why is this? For the same reason it is difficult to get an error corrected on a utility bill. Or to find someone who can do something about a fixing a defect in your brand new car. Individuals can perform simple and amazingly varied tasks. Organizations function best with complex and routine ones.

            Organizations are composed of individual persons. Organizational tasks and products are developed from the tasks and products of individual persons, too. We saw in previous chapters that our expectations about schools affect what we believe the structure of the school to be and how people in the school should relate to one another. In this chapter we will see how an individual performs a simple task and then see how this simple task changes in different organizational structures. In order to understand better the charts below illustrating different organizational models, let's begin with a chart that represents the performance of simple tasks performed by an individual , e.g. building a bird house or baking a cake.

            At the end of chapter 4, we developed a general slogan, a basic model for achieving educational goals: School goals are achievable when adequate resources are provided for effective, feasible tasks of implementation. To keep things simple, we will try to restrict ourselves to items introduced by this slogan, goals, tasks and resources.Figure 8.9 captures the Basic Model of Chapter 4:

Figure 8.9

            How should we understand this chart. Let's go through it bit by bit to make sure we understand what this flowchart means. We will use this basic chart, making it more and more complex, to illustrate what is involved in getting something done in different models of the school. Also, by seeing how different organizational models affect the complexity of a task, we gain insight into how simple tasks might go awry.

            To begin: Goals control Tasks. What this means is that the goals we choose determine what the appropriate tasks will be. For example, if we decide to build a bird house, selecting wood and nails, and cutting, etc. would be tasks appropriate to that goal. If we chose to bake a cake, we would select edible ingredients, rather than wood and nails.

            Secondly, Tasks control Resources. What this means is that once we decide how to pursue our goal, i.e. what our tasks are, this decision determines what resources we will look for.

            Next, Resources support Tasks. Without resources, tasks cannot be accomplished. Finally, Tasks support Goals. Goals without tasks through which they are implemented remain only plans.

            There is a certain artificiality about this task analysis because as individuals we do not often perceive tasks to be composed of separate parts: goals, tasks and resources. We tend to blend these distinctions together into a harmonious whole. But only so long as we succeed. When we fail, an analysis such as this become indispensible to intelligent troubleshooting.

            The point of developing this flowchart of a simple task is to help us understand how different organizational structures affect how tasks are done. Tasks are done differently in small schools than they are in big schools. Different people may share different parts of the task. This requires reconceptualizing what one person may think of as a unified action into coordinated subtasks.

            The advantage of this basic model is that it is simple. Its drawbacks are that it doesn't account for error. People seldom just do something and have it satisfy what they set out to do. There is a lot of trial and error involved, especially as the tasks become complex and require coordination. Let's complicate our step 1 model with the addition of a new item: Benefits and Costs, which are organizational outcomes to be evaluated to see if goals have been met. (See figure 8.10)

Figure 8.10

Figure 8.10 is not very different from our flowchart of a simple task. What we see here is a slight change in the relationship of the items. Tasks are not assumed to automatically support goals. Rather, they generate (support) outcomes which are Benefits and Costs. These outcomes must be evaluated to determine to what extent they support goals. And they are often evaluated by people other than those who produced them. How far the outcomes are from the goals will determine how tasks need to be adjusted. If many people are involved in this process, a complex communication system will have to be established. And it is a widely recognized "maxim" of systems theory that as complexity increases, potential for failure does, too..This is hedged against in military and business systems by building in redundancy, that is, systems that duplicate one another's functions. School budgets are generally too tight for this kind of safeguard.

            By "Benefits and Costs" in figure 8.10 we mean all outcomes of the Tasks, not only what is created or transformed, but also what is used up. People tend to think of outcomes as only those new valued things produced by an activity. Costs tend to be overlooked or put into a special category. But someone's costs are another person's benefits. The trash produced by a school which it pays to dispose of is what provides benefits to the trash haulers and new resources to factories that recycle paper and cans. Whatever they may be, Benefits and Costs must be evaluated to see if they support Goals.

            The task-analysis model shown in figure 8.10 is the model underlying the vast majority of reform proposals directed at the schools. It is the simplest form of what we will call below the systems management model. In the difference between figures 8.9 and 8.10 we see the first difference between tasks undertaken by individual persons and those undertaken by organizations: the outcomes of tasks do not easily related back to goals. As we have seen in chapter 2, organizational goals are often sloganistic and relating outcomes to them may involve a complicated process of evaluation.

            In the last chapter we saw that the Coleman Report asserted that merely putting more money into the schools had no effect upon student achievement, whereas student achievement was seen to correlate with parent SES. (We can consider parent SES to be a kind of resource.) Adding in Resources of any kind and expecting a corresponding increase in Benefits (and Costs) is called a production model (see figure 8.11) and assumes the use of the simple systems management model.

Figure 8.11

            The production model tends to make people look for a direct relationship between increasing resources ($$$ + $) and increasing outputs (888+8) to meet goals. Researchers [27] have argued that the school is not organized in a way that makes the production model appropriate. We will see below some ways of conceptualizing the school organization that explain why simply increasing Resources will not increase the output of Benefits and Costs supporting Goals.

            We should understand that our basic model is simplistic. More resources don't necessarily lead to more benefits. In a complex organization, tasks have to be coordinated. Coordination is a kind of task and uses time, energy and money. The resources used for coordination purposes are part of what is called overhead costs. Figure 8.12 shows the relationship, ignoring Benefits and Costs, and Goals, for simplicity's sake.

Figure 8.12

It is possible to use up new resources as overhead. This sometimes happens when new programs are started because a large part of start-up costs are for administration, staff training and liaison, i.e. coordination tasks. For example, a teacher may get several sets of new textbooks with the expectation that his or her teaching will be improved. But it may take so much time and energy just to develop lessons that use the text material that the instruction itself suffers. Another example is this: simply admitting more new students at a university brings new resources in the form of tuitions. Against these must be weighed the costs of additional staff and facility use. When budgets expand and production doesn't, check to see if overhead has gone up.

            As practically important as they are, let's leave these complexities and build upon our simple model. We will examine the differences between models of systems management, bureaucracy, organizational development and bargaining and conflict.

The Implementation Models

            Most people think of reform as a top-down process. Without necessarily intending to, they adapt the viewpoint of the powerholders in a monocratic relationship. Thus, when reforms fail, they blame the implementers (school personnel) or the lowers (students).

            Knowledge of organization theory, however, opens up a new perspective. We will see how and why effective school reforms have come about despite severe limits on resources, because teachers and principals were given the discretion to determine organizational changes at the local level. Let's begin our review of Elmore's implementation models.

The systems management model

            Let's first look at the systems management model. Here the school is conceived as a sort of computer aimed at maximizing goals. Historically, this conception precedes the others in organization theory. It is the ultimately rational factory. To reiterate an earlier point, it is the model of the school most reform proposals assume. It is monocratic, programmed at the top, and executes directives unquestioningly. The lower levels, being parts of the computer, have no special needs of their own, and certainly no independent goals which could conflict with the basic computer program. In a school system, the basic program is policy, translated instructionally into curriculum. (The quote from John Franklin Bobbitt in Chapter Two alludes to this model.) If the computer has undesirable outputs, the program is at fault -- or maybe there is a hardware malfunction. Policy must be changed or parts replaced.

            Our simple systems management model has been introduced above in figure 8.10.. We make one change in it, however. In concession to the complexities of the school organization, Goals becomes Goals & Related Policy, (see figure 8.13) since the day-to-day functioning of an organization is normally done in terms of policies rather than by reference to the Goals themselves.

Figure 8.13

What we see in figure 8.13 is our simple task flowchart complicated in a second way. At first, we broke the easy connection between tasks and goals, placing outcomes in between. Now, goals become complicated with policies. And policies invariably need interpreters. As individuals, we have no need of policies for the sake of performing simple tasks. But, for reasons we look at in the next chapter, organizations develop policies to coordinate the actions of the different individuals in them.

            As the flowcharts get more complicated, try to trace out the elements of the basic task flowchart and to relate them back to figure 8.9.

The Bureaucratic Model

            The second model developed by Elmore is the bureaucratic model. Like a bureau for clothes, a bureaucratic model sees the organization as compartmentalized; more complex than a simple input-out systems model. It has departments to which different tasks are assigned. These departments may work independently, in that the master program, the policy, need not govern the day-to-day work.

            School systems are bureaucracies. So are departmentalized schools or any organization where different tasks are given, by rule or by tradition, to different people. Thus, most large religious organizations are bureaucracies, too. But with this important difference. Their ultimate focus is not on effectiveness or efficiency, but upon propriety or morality.

            In all but the smallest schools, the new teacher's first task on the job is to learn how to function in a bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is not meant here as a term of condemnation. It represents instead what some consider to be the most humane, equitable and rational form for a large, complex organization.[28] Bureaucracy tends to limit favoritism, despotism and inconsistency in organizations. In also imposes controls which less complex organizations cannot [29] and is subject to its own kind of organizational politics: department vs. department. The reforms of political Progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought about the bureaucratization of the schools. The costs of this are reflected in the four standard conflict situations of complex organizations.

            The bureaucratic model is still monocratic so far as basic goals are concerned. But whereas in the systems management model discretion resides only at the top, in a bureaucracy there is discretion at the departmental level. Routines are established which are supposed to support the goals and their related policies. But discretion as to whether and how a routine is followed rests with the department. The major problem of control in a bureaucracy from the point of view of the policy-makers is how to control departmental discretion and how to assure that routines support rather than undermine goals.

            Personal goals are not recognized although conflict among departments is. [30] Range of departmental control becomes a concern. Responsibilities rest with the top administration to "optimize" coordination. Optimize is an important word here. It means to do as best as considerations of cost and benefit allow. This contrasts with the systems management model in which maximization of goal values is pursued. Costs are usually not considered to be important unless they are suffered by the powerholders.

            Because a major difference between the systems management model and the bureaucratic model is the way in which discretion is distributed, let's digress for a moment to look at discretion more closely.

The Locus and Span of Discretion

            People tend to underestimate the amount of discretion they have even when given a direct order. Any teacher, however, who has had to quiet down a large group has learned how differently students can respond to the directive, "Be quiet!" Even in the military, a paradigm of systems management in the minds of many, discretion is hard to control.[31] Between your superior's evaluation of your response to a directive as adequate or as inadequate lies an often very considerable span of discretion. Telling someone to do something still leaves the choice to them as to how.

            We saw in Chapter two that goals statements with broad consensus generally lacked specificity. The vaguer the directive, the more discretion you have in deciding what is an adequate response to it. This risks the possibility that some people will judge that your response was less than adequate. There is a tension here which traps educators to their disadvantage. The broader, the more sloganistic, the goal they pursue, the greater the span of discretion they enjoy. But the greater the likelihood their response will be seen to be inadequate. In the discussion in the article on Institutionalization, we will look at this more closely to see what the schools have done to extricate themselves from this dilemma.

            We will introduce one more new item into our analysis: the discretionary unit. A discretionary unit, D.U., is a person or group of people that controls, goals, tasks or resources in the organization. We can use the discretionary unit to compare and contrast the notions of stakeholder and powerholder in an organization. For example, a stakeholder is a person or group supported by the products of an organization. A powerholder is a discretionary unit that controls resources in an organization, even if indirectly. (Recall from Chapter 3 that stakeholders may not be a powerholder, i.e. D.U.) Figure 8.14 illustrates these relationships.

Figure 8.14

Why is it important to spell out a conception of discretionary unit? Not only because it helps strengthen the distinction between stakeholders and powerholders. But also because it helps us understand how it is that school people can exercise great discretion in a school and still remain relatively powerless. School reformers often concede that principals and teachers must be given more responsibility, that is, discretion. But if having discretion means little more than letting schoolpeople decide how to make the best of a bad situation, then giving them more will not bring about school improvement. Judging results is only fair if those responsible for decisions control the resources to support them.

NOTE WELL: DU's need not be formally recognized as members of an organization. External actors, e.g. pressure groups, political organizations, affluent individuals, governmental agencies and the like, often influence (especially) public schools as DU's. [31b]

            In monocratic organizations, the discretionary unit is found at the top. In bureaucracies, discretionary units are distributed throughout. For example, many large schools not only have principals, but also deans and department heads all of whom can exercise discretion. If we include the discretionary unit in our simple diagram of the systems management model we get figure 8.15:

Figure 8.15

This chart brings up an interesting point. Discretionary Units require resources. There may be Benefits and Costs that support the goals and policies of the organization but do not support the discretionary unit, and vice versa. As we will see in a later section, policies can constrain the powerholders to the benefit of others in an organization. But powerholders can use the organization to pursue their own goals rather than the stated public goals of the organization.

Comparing the Two Models

            For the sake of a simple diagram, let's compare the systems management model and the bureaucratic model, ignoring the resources, which we will remove from the illustration. In comparing the bureaucratic model, with the systems management model in figure 8.16, note not only the division of tasks into routines in a bureaucracy, but the introduction of new centers of discretion.

Figure 8.16

            How can we relate the bureaucratic model back to the original flowchart for simple tasks (figure 8.9)? To begin, we deleted resources to simplify the diagram. (We can imagine them attached on the right.) What is new about the bureaucratic model is that the task is broken up into routines and each routine is controlled by its own DU. For example, a principal may be charged with promoting the education, generally speaking, of the students in his or her school. But the foreign language department head is certainly going to have more to say specifically than the principal about what is to be done in the foreign language department. And in most cases, particularly where the school is large, the department head will have far more influence on what is actually learned in foreign language classrooms than will the principal.

            The top level DU of a bureaucracy tries to maintain control via Goals and Related Policies, not only because there may be coordination problems, but also because of the tendency of each DU to pursue other than goals authorized by the top level DU on the far left. As discretionary units develop to control ever more complex subroutines, the control and coordination problem increases.

            We can see in figure 8.16 that bureaucracies have various centers of discretion and that they use up resources. The outputs, i.e. costs and benefits, may support any of DU or the goals and related policies each in different ways. For example, it is not unusual for a school to attract students for its strengths in a particular department, say, mathematics. But the high enrollment helps support even the weakest department of the school. (For the sake of future simplification, note the group of elements enclosed within the border marked "The Bureaucratic Complex". Our next flowchart will treat this as a simple block.)

            It is important to note that in a bureaucracy simple tasks can only be accomplished as part of a departmental routine. If some specific department is not given the responsibility for a task, then it will be done, at best, haphazardly. Or the task may be redefined as a complex, organizational task requiring interdepartmental coordination. For getting certain things done, bigger may not do it better.

            How is discretion in a bureaucracy controlled? By several means. The first is that people are socialized to subordinating their personal goals to those of the organization. A second means of controlling discretion is through policy governing routine in the bureaucracy. But the most important control is by establishing goals and related policy that control resources. (See figure 8.17)

            Whether this works, of course is another matter. The School Laws of the State of New Jersey, for example, mandate a "thorough and efficient education". But, more impressive is the ability of the State to take over a school district found to be inefficiently run. This has been threatened in Newark. What this shows is that resource control is by far the greater source of power.

Figure 8.17

            The control of discretion by controlling resources has particular interests for schoolpeople trying to professionalize teaching. [i]Both lawyers and doctors, in comparison to schoolteachers and administrators, exercise great discretion in the performance of their jobs. But lawyers and doctors also control their most important resources: access to their profession and monopoly on the performances characteristic of their field (therefore, funding). Teachers control neither of these.

            But schoolpeople are far from being mere pawns in the hands of school boards and state officials They can often exercise discretion in the face of apparently strong directives. (Recall comments made earlier about span of discretion.) For example, attempts at control of school bureaucracies by state legislatures sometimes result in lack of sufficient resources to carry out a mandate. Weatherly and Lipsky tell how schoolpeople authorized to implement Chapter 766, a special education law in Massachusetts, coped with the tensions of a comprehensive mandate and limited resources:

•they rationed the number of assessments performed;

•they placed limits on children held for the program;

•they took behavior problems first;

•they favored group over individual treatment;

•they used trainees, rather than experienced teachers;

•they short-circuited time-consuming procedures aimed at securing the rights of parents.[32]

This demonstrates how the authority conferred by law can be substantially transformed by those who have the power of implementation. Each DU not only consumes resources but may also transform the goals and policies of an organization (i.e. of the powerholders in an organization) from something quite different from what was originally intended.

Organizational Development

            An attempt to restore moral community to the systems management and bureaucratic models comes in the form of another model: the organizational development model. This model starts off with its fundamental goals set at the top but ends up inviting participation in the very process of policy-making. Elmore comments that the effect of this model is to "turn the policy--making process on its head." The major concern here is that members "buy into" the goals of the organization. This kind of model underlies many of the current proposals to professionalize teaching, e.g. sharing of policy-making authority with teachers, or the determination of budget by building staff rather than central administration.

            The general appeal made for this model is that the organization will be most effective in reaching its goals when the personal needs of the individuals in it are recognized and provided for. We have here a sort of democratic moral community in which commitment is shared.. This corresponds somewhat with our image of the school as Temple, but a Temple democratically controlled. What we have in the organizational development model is the organization conceived of as a single discretionary unit. (See figure 8.18). So far as getting work done, however, this model seems to offer no improvement over a monocratically controlled bureaucracy.

Figure 8.18

            We have stripped down the flowchart here to the bare essentials of the Organizational Development model. We have left out not only resources, but tasks and outcomes. This model may strike us as either utopian or as running against the grain of our intuitive images of the school as Temple or Factory. What this model does is reconceive the school to be a democratic moral community, giving much more weight to school personnel in the determination of goals and related policies than our actual school systems are structured to do. Is the Organizational Development model just wishful thinking? Or is there evidence it is workable?

            A Rand Corporation study [33] of four federally funded educational programs aimed at innovation in the public schools turned up the following results:

•Project success depended primarily upon the existence and mobilization of local resources, over which federal administrators had no control.

•Among the important factors in determining that success were the use of voluntary, highly motivated participants and the development and use of local resources.

We see attempts along these lines in the Dade County, Florida experiments and the Buffalo, New York reorganization mentioned elsewhere in this book.

The Conflict and Bargaining Model

            The final model, the conflict and bargaining model, corresponds to our Town Meeting image. A major difference between this model and the previous three is that it assumes no consensus about goals. For the systems management model and the bureaucratic model, goals are provided by a discretionary unit (D.U.) at the top of the organizational hierarchy. The organizational development model develops consensus on goals among all the members of the organization. But the conflict and bargaining model only requires that participants in the organization agree that maintaining the bargaining relationship, i.e. staying in the organization, is worth more than leaving the organization.[34]

            We can picture a conflict and bargaining model of the organization to be a group of D.U.'s (discretionary units) controlling resources coming together to form and maintain an organization. They may pool their resources but are unlikely to relinquish control over them entirely. All D.U.'s are stakeholders and powerholders but the public goals and policies of the organization will tend to express most clearly the expectations of the most dominant D.U.'s. (See figure 8.19)

Figure 8.19

            What we have here is a kind of "chemical reaction." Before organization, only individual DU's controlling their own resources exist. But the bargaining process brings them together to form an organization whose structure we can recognize in the way it relates Goals and Related Policies to Tasks, Resources and Costs and Benefits (outcomes.) The Conflict and Bargaining model is the first model to concede that something occurs between DU's to bring about goals and related policies, i.e. bargaining. Goals and related policies do not just come into being mysteriously as they seem to for the other models.

            We can see why this model is unattractive compared to the systems management model, or even the more involved bureaucratic model: it is complicated. One has to consider a whole range of variables to predict the possible outcome of some new policy or reform. The Conflict and Bargaining model is a complex model even in its simplified form. But reality, too, is often not simple.

            Can you discern the components of our original simple task and the flow of control and support within this new model? Whether simple tasks can be defined will mostly depend upon the number of people involved with them. If we imagine that only two people are involved, this model gives a good analysis of what goes on when one person enlists the aid of another to complete a task. What happens is that. one person negotiates for the resources of the other, e.g. time, money, effort, in such a manner that both can look forward to outcomes which support their mutually recognized goals.

            Important things to note:

•the bargaining process requires support from resources. In the bureaucratic complex this is called "overhead."

•evaluation tends to be focussed on those Benefits and Costs that are intended to support goals.

•the potential exists for resources to be diverted away from supporting goals and policies to other uses. We will deal with this in detail in the article on Institutionalization.

            Chart 8.20 compares and contrasts information given by Elmore about the four models. These implementation models enhance and inform our own intuitive expectation models of the school, temple, factory, town meeting but do not necessarily supercede them.[35]

            Elmore distinguishes his four models in terms of

•a central principle, operating as an organizational rationale

•a theory of power, i.e. how power is distributed throughout the organization

•a theory of decision, i.e. how decisions are best thought to be made in the organization

•the implementation process, i.e. how decisions are thought to be best put into practice.

Figure 8.20

Which of these models best describes schools in a large system in a pluralistic society? To some extent, they all provide some insight into the process of schooling. Clearly, however, in our pluralistic society the conflict and bargaining model deserves much more attention by educators than it tends to get. We will see elsewhere that the conflict and bargaining model lends itself more readily than the others to explaining the process of institutionalization.

Decision in Organizations

            Models of organizations can help us see connections that would be otherwise hard to discern in the daily hustle and bustle of schooling. Models can clarify. But they can also create expectations of tidiness that do not match reality. Our most complex model so far has been the bargaining and conflict model. But even within that model, the discretionary units, though they may be in conflict, stand out as little islands of rationality. There, it seems, things are thought out. Means pursue ends, even if ends vary from unit to unit.

            The model we introduced in Chapter four was, in effect, a paradigm of rational decision making: goals were pursued by effective, feasible tasks. The analysis questions of Chapter Three also contained a model of decision making embedded in them. The questions suggested that problems were to be approached with a procedure similar to the following:

a. Analyze the problem situation to determine present allocations of costs and benefits

b. Examine goal proposals for feasibility;

c. Determine the likelihood of implementation;

d. Determine post-implementation allocations of costs and benefits.

The question we must ask is whether, even in the most monocratic or technically developed organizations, such a procedure is actually followed.

How Problems Are Dealt With

            March and Simon [36] in their classic work, Organizations, suggest that problem solving behavior takes a different form:

In a search for programs of activity to achieve goals, the focus of attention will tend to move from one class of variables to another in the following general sequence. (1) Those variables that are largely within the control of the problem-solving individual or organizational unit will be considered first. There will be a serious attempt to elaborate a program of activity based on control of these variables. (2) If a satisfactory program is not discovered by these means, attention will be directed to changing other variables that are not under the direct control of the problem solvers,... (3) If a satisfactory program is still not evolved, attention will be turned to the criteria that the program must satisfy, and an effort will be made to relax these criteria so that a satisfactory program can be found. [37]

What people do with problems in organizations is what some people tend to do when their cars don't run well. At first they kick the bumper and flip all the switches on the dashboard, to see if that has any effect. If that doesn't work, they may let their car warm up longer when it's cold, or start using high-test gas regularly or put additives in their oil. Finally, they may just give up trying to drive at high speeds or for long distances.

            Schools do similar things. If a cross-racial fight occurs in school, an assembly on Brotherhood may be held. Then, if the conflict continues, the parents of kids from the different racial groups may be contacted. If this brings no improvement, all fighting may be treated as a suspension offense. What happens in each step along the way is that the goal, the breadth of expectations, is diminished. We go from enhancing Brotherhood, to enlisting parental control to squelching fighting of any kind. The underlying animosities which the fighting was a symptom of may remain untouched.

The Costs of Analysis

            Why is problem-solving in organizations so haphazard? Are people basically irrational? Don't they really care?

            The answer is that careful analysis costs time and effort, ultimately, money. A detailed cost-benefit analysis can have political costs, also. Unless people perceived the situation to involve their own interests, they don't look for the "best" answer. They don't even look for the most cost-efficient answer. They generally accept what will do to answer the concern, if only for the moment. A tight budget or a tradition of making do aggravates this.[38] March and Simon put it that as problem solvers people are neither goal-maximizers, nor goal-optimizers but goal-satisficers. They do what works for them, and that is good enough.

            Unless participants individually feel the stakes are high, they don't personally want to bear the costs of careful analysis; particularly since prediction involved in feasibility studies is so uncertain. So they act so as to make whatever it is that is "the problem" not their problem.

Garbage Can Decision Processes

            In another important work, March and Olsen [39] characterize the organization as a bunch of solutions looking for a problem. The routines and the skills of individuals in an organization are the tools available to attack problems, i.e. someone's concern about a situation. If a concern arises, these routines and skills are applied to it, willy-nilly, for those are the tools at hand. If a man only has a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

            This process of problem solving March and Olsen call the garbage can decision process. In a garbage can decision process a decision within an organization is an outcome of the following randomly related factors:

•problems, i.e. someone's concerns;

•solutions, someone's product, often waiting to be applied to something.

•participants, often whoever happens to be available.

•choice opportunities, occasions when a decision is expected.

Figure 8.21 depicts this mix.

Figure 8.21

An organizational choice is, according to March, "a somewhat fortuitous confluence." [40] Within a garbage can process, decisions are made either by oversight, by flight (running away) or by resolution, the only method recognized within the classical perspective. Resolution, is basically, the kind of careful analysis we have provided an example of in earlier chapters.

            The garbage can decision theory says that resources brought to bear on a problem will be, primarily, what happens to be available. A problem is solved when it ceases to be a concern. But when do people decide to really look at a problem or treat it lightly? March and Olsen suggest that both big problems and small problems are given the same short shrift. In general, only middlingly important problems will be resolved through any structured procedure. This gives us an important clue. If we consider what a "big problem" might be, we may see why thorough analyses are avoided.

            As we learned in Chapter 3, a problem is a perception by a someone that a situation concerns them or other people. March and Olsen say much the same thing. A "big problem" let us postulate is one or both of the following:

a) a situation uniformly perceived by powerholders to be a concern because solutions would involve substantial reallocations of costs and benefits or

b) a situation perceived generally to be a concern but for which there is no broad consensus for solution.

In a situation like a we should not expect any more care to be taken with a decision than seems necessary to protect the interests of the powerholders; unless, of course such decision is made within a moral community where broad concern for all stakeholders is acted upon. Decisions will not be made public and will be dealt will summarily.

            In situation b, where consensus is likely not forthcoming, we should expect the powerholders to make the decision according to their own lights for the following reasons: 1) any decision will be criticized; and 2) widespread perception of lack of consensus and the leadership's inability to deal with it undercuts the legitimacy of that leadership. (We will look at this more closely in the next chapter.) For such reasons we can expect that powerholders in a school system will not invite careful analysis of either school budget allocations or the implementation of controversial programs such as sex education. So we can expect a participative, analytic decision-process to be used only where either the powerholders are neither uniformly in agreement that their concerns are at stake, or where a great consensus exists among all stakeholders as to what costs should be borne to address the problem.

            Figure 8.22 maps out areas of decision processes. The dimensions defining the problem space are: reallocation prospects, the amount of reallocation of costs and benefits threatened by the decision; and breadth of consensus.

Figure 8.22

            March's and Olsen's analysis seems to indicate the the very possibility of developing reasoned approaches to solving problems requires the kind of "buying into" the process envisioned by theorists of the Organizational Development model. Without this shared commitment, the very costs of analysis will cause the process to collapse into a perfunctory, garbage can decision process.

Reform Proposals from an Organizational Perspective

            Naive reformers, including educators, work at the level of expectations. There is public outcry for, among many other things, increased literacy, higher mathematical skills, reduction in teen-age sexual activity and greater concern for the elderly. Naive reformers seem to think it is sufficient to inaugurate a policy, a rule, or a procedure to have done with their problem. "Encased" in the images of Temple and Factory, often ignoring the complexities of Bureaucracy or the Political Arena, they fail to address concerns about implementation. But as Elmore and many others point out, structures of implementation in organizations are absolutely crucial to the fulfillment of expectations.

            Many who see the complexities tend to believe that monocratic power is needed to address the problem. The factory model in its traditional forms tends to stress the centralization of power. Recall Bobbitt's quote from chapter two to the effect that managers alone should decide "the order and sequence of all of the various processes through which the raw material or the partially developed product shall pass" and "must see that the raw material or partially finished product is actually passed on from process to process." To Winston Churchill the comment is attributed that democracy is a very troublesome form of government; but all other forms are worse. The risk of monocratic leadership, even in schools, is that it ignores costs to others that it does not itself suffer.

            Our awareness of organizational issues enables us a more sophisticated view of who the stakeholders and powerholders are and what the costs and benefits to them might be. For a given reform proposal, stakeholders and powerholders are found both within and without the school. They are found at the policy-making level, at the implementation level and elsewhere. A careful mapping of the benefits and costs of change implementation becomes essential.[41]

            "There oughta be a law..." is the naive response to a problem. Organization theory helps us develop a more sophisticated view of command, control and policy. This should bring about a reconsideration of what can be commanded, controlled and affected through policy. In "Controlling the School: Institutionalization" we will look at how authority, control and policy differ according to the image of the school under consideration. Sometimes policy is announced that serves merely as a ritual expression of concern rather than a commitment to focussing the resources of the school on a problem. Such policy requires the wisdom not to worry too much about its implementation. If what we expect to see at any given level of an organization is change of behavior, we will have to look beyond policy and formal control to effect that.

            Finally, organization theory reinforces our increasing sensitivity to the language of reform proposals, to the important distinctions set out in the first section of this book between formal and technical change proposals. It helps us determine with greater accuracy where slogans may or may not be useful in the schooling process.



1. Organization theory is useful in helping us understand how the structure of schools can undermine professed goals and individual efforts to achieve them. Our expectation models of the school, Temple, Factory and Town Meeting, have been supplemented with implementation models, Systems Analysis, Bureaucratic, Organizational Development and Conflict and Bargaining.

2. Complex organizations tend to have four basic conflicts, following policy vs. sensitivity, delegating authority vs. authorized goals, process vs. product and power vs. morale. Theories X, Y and Z rest on different conceptions of human nature and the relationship of commitment in organizations. Organizations structured according to the different theories may avoid certain of the basic conflicts.

3. Monocratic power relationships can produce "encasements", perceptual fixes that can lock persons into pathologies of domination. In our pluralistic society, however, relationships are flexible and the roles of Powerholder, Implementer and Lower are played by different people in different circumstances. It is important, however, to understand to what extent behavior may be determined by such roles.

4. A major concern was the span and locus of discretion in the organization. Indications are that enhancing teacher and principal discretion is a major factor in making significant school reforms. A consideration of the garbage can decision process also indicates that without commitment to support the possible costs of analysis, we can expect perfunctory participation to degenerate into a hit-or-miss problem solving approach.


1. How might organization theory affect our ideas of responsibility and blame in assessing how an organization functions? If a school does not live up to expectations, how can you respond to someone who feels that either the administration, the teachers or the students must be at fault?

2. Can you give other examples from your own experience of situations involving the basic internal conflicts of an organization? What was your reaction at the time (assuming you did not know anything about organization theory)?

3. Different kinds of organizations tend to operate under theory X and theory Y. Make two lists of organizations which in your experience seemed to be run on the basis of one theory rather than the other.

4. What are the possible costs and benefits of running an organization on theory X rather than theory Y (or Z)? Chart these costs and benefits in terms of the risks run in case the situation does not fit with the theory used. When is theory Y risky? Theory X?

5. Give an example each of domination behavior that is part of the formal, the technical and the informal culture of some group. What is the response of those dominated at each level of culture? Example: you might recall a topic from chapter 3, "Denying concerns and interests" and examine how domination is reflected in the language people use to deal with one another: who calls whom by their first name? Who is talked about, even in their absence, using their title?

6. Analyze the task of preparing for a party in terms of a simple systems management model. Do it also in terms of the bureaucratic model (divide the tasks up among your friends.) How does discretion vary in each case? On what items does it vary?

7. What additional insights do we get from the conflict and bargaining model? What does it explain about organizations you are familiar with, e.g. you family, your school, etc.?

8. When the costs of planning become burdensome, the garbage-can decision process takes over. At what point did you stop planning your party in detail (see question 6) and just "play it by ear?" (For example, did you consider whether you would have several kinds of refreshment and where the best prices were available? Or did you just delegate it to someone with the directions, "Get the Brewski"?)

9. What kinds of organizational models do different reform proposals presume? Is there a relationship between who sponsors a reform proposal, what organizational model they presume is operating, and a perceptual encasement due to a relationship of domination?

10. What is the relationship between different organizational models and the nature of the consensus needed to run an organization? Do you think there may be a relationship between the model people prefer and their willingness to take other peoples' concerns into consideration?


[1] Kenneth E. Boulding, Conflict and Defense: a general theory. ( New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1963) p. 145.

[2] See Richard Sennett, Authority, (New York: Vintage, 1981) pp.97--99 for an example of the use of indifference to create guilt and assert authority. The organizational issue of how compensation gets negotiated is obscured in this exchange.

[3] James J. March and Herbert A. Simon Organizations (New York: Wiley, 1958)

[4] Robert K. Merton in March and Simon, 41. See also Robert K. Merton Social Theory and Social Structure (New York: Harcourt, 1976) or Robert K. Merton Sociological Ambivalence and Other Essays (New York: Free Press, 1976)

[5] See Joseph Berger, "New York's Principals Tell Why They 'Break the Rules'" The New York Times. Feb. 21, 1989, Sec. B, p.1.

[6] Philip Selznick in March and Simon ,43. See also Philip Selznick "Foundations of the Theory of Organization" in Jay M. Shafritz and Philip Whitbeck Classics of Organization Theory (Oak Park, IL: Moore, 1978) 84 - 95

[7] Luther Gulick's work is summarized in March and Simon, p.41. Also see Luther Gulick "Notes on the Theory of Organization" in Jay M. Shafritz and Albert C. Hyde (eds.) Classics of Public Administration (Oak Park, IL: Moore, 1978) 38 - 47.

[8] Cf. Roger G. Barker and Paul V. Gump, Big School, Small School: High School Size and Student Behavior. (Stanford, CA: Stanford U. Press, 1964)

[9] See procedures developed by the Coalition for Essential Schools aimed at recapturing the "small community" environment and the focus on learner development. Contact Coalition of Essential Schools, Brown University, Education Department, Box 1938, Providence RI 02912 for their newsletter, Horace.

[10] See Seymour B. Sarason The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1971) pp. 152 -- 154

[11] Keegan, The Mask of Command (New York: Viking, 1987) p.324.

[12] Abraham Zaleznik "Power and Politics in Organizational Life" in Harvard Business Review. On Human Relations. (New York: Harper & Row, 1979) pp. 375--396

[13] Alvin Ward Gouldner in March and Simon , 45. See especially Alvin Ward Gouldner Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (Glencoe,IL: Free Press of Glencoe, 1954)

[14] See "war games" in Alfred S. Alschuler, School Discipline. A Socially Literate Solution. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980) pp. 27--38.

[15] Chester I. Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (Cambridge, Harvard U. Press, 1938) p.44.

[16] Douglas M. McGregor, The Human Side of the Enterprise, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960)

[17] William Ouchi, Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the Japanese Challenge (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1981)
         But see also, B. Bruce Biggs, "The Dangerous Folly Called Theory Z".
Fortune. May 17, 1982. pp. 41 - 46.

[18] McGregor is ambivalent as to whether Theory X management elicits Theory X behavior or vice versa. See Michael A. Oliker, "Douglas McGregor's Theory Y and the Structure of Educational Institutions", Dissertation Abstracts International 37 (10):6158A--59A.

[19] Kenwyn K. Smith, Groups in Conflict. Prisons in Disguise. (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1982)

[20] Smith uses the terms "uppers" , "middles" and "lowers", respectively for what we are calling here "powerholders", "implementers" and "lowers". An analysis of his terminology shows the identity of the two sets of terms.

[21] Cf. Lillian Breslow Rubin, Worlds of Pain. Life in the Working Class Family. (New York: Basic Books, 1976) p.180

[22] Kenwyn K. Smith, op.cit. pp.248--249.

[23] See Sennett on making authority visible and legible, pp.168--190.

[24] An introduction to the field might begin with the highly readable Charles Perrow Complex Organizations (Glenville, IL: Scott Foresman, 1979) Further study would be well-pursued with Jeffrey Pfeffer, Organizations and Organization Theory. (Boston; Pitman, 1982) See, also, other citations throughout this book.

[25] See Frank W. Lutz and Aaron Gresson III, "Local School Boards as Political Councils" in Educational Studies. Vol.11, 1980. pp. 125--144.

[26] Richard F. Elmore "Organizational Models of Social Program Implementation" Public Policy Vol 26, no. 2 (Spring 1978) pp. 185 - 228

[27] See Rebecca Barr and Robert Dreeben How Schools Work (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1983)

[28] Perrow, pp. 5--16.

[29] Cf. Randall Collins "Some Comparative Principles of Educational Stratification" Harvard Educational Review Vol.47, No. 1. February 1977. pp 1--27.

[30] Cf. Richard Weatherley and Michael Lipsky, "Street-Level Bureaucrats and Institutional Innovation: Implementing Special Education Reform" Harvard Educational Review. Vol.47, No.2. May 1977.

[31] See James F. Dunnigan, "Leadership", Chapter 14 in How to Make War (New York: Quill, 1983). pp. 216--222.

[31b] This footnote was entered 2/13/20. I only recently read James Q. Wilson's insightful and informative book, Bureaucracy. What government agencies do and why they do it , which deals with  organizational environments,how they interact with organizational structures and how such interaction supports or stultifies productivity. -- EGR

[32] Weatherley and Lipsky, p.194.

[33] See Paul Berman and Milbrey Wallin McLaughlin, Federal Programs Supporting Educational Change Vol.VIII: Implementing and Sustaining Innovations. R-1589/8-HEW (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp.: May 1978)

[34] Cf. Barnard, p. 44, "The total motivation of a cooperative determined by the marginal contributor." Barnard would reject the bargaining and conflict model since he preferred to believe that organizations could have goals apart from the goals of its members.

[35] Graham Allison in, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971) presents three models of organization that correspond more tightly to the images of the school. His focus, however, is on strategic decision.

[36] James G. March and Herbert A. Simon, Organizations, New York:Wiley,1958

[37] March and Simon, p.179.

[38] Cf. Bob Cole, "Teaching in a Time Machine: the 'Make-Do' Mentality in Small-Town Schools" Phi Delta Kappan. October 1988. pp.139--144.

[39] James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, Ambiguity and Choice, Bergen: Universitetsforlaget, 1976

[40] March and Olsen,p.27,

[41] See John P. Kotter and Leonard A. Schlesinger, "Choosing Strategies for Change" Harvard Business Review March-April 1979 for a simple cost-benefit analysis of change methods.