advice/perspective on jobs, work and management

60 SEC BOOK REVIEW: Images of Organization (by Gareth Morgan)

In his bestseller, Images of Organization (1986, updated 2006), organizational theorist and management consultant Gareth Morgan encourages managers to utilize the ‘power of metaphor’ in order to manager better. Doing so, he argues, will allow a manager to ‘discover the key competencies that are vital for success’.[1]

Amongst the organizational metaphors he suggests are…

  • a Machine
  • an Organism
  • a Brain
  • a Culture[2]


But after thinking about this for a minute, it occurred to me that…

  • People aren’t cogs, in my experience, nor do they behave like one
  • My arms, legs, and other body parts can’t quit to join another body if they get fed up with being attached to me
  • Occasionally, I’m of ‘two minds’ on something – but I imagine only people with split personalities have brains that disagree with each other in the way coworkers sometimes do
  • A culture? Sure – but in Morgan’s own words, ‘culture cannot really be managed’[3]


Confused? Me too. But as Dr. Morgan ‘explains’:

There are no right or wrong theories in management…[4]

No right or wrong ways to manage people? Really? Well, that certainly hasn’t been my experience.

In fact, the only image that comes to my mind after reading a statement like that is a big, steaming pile of…



[1] Morgan, Gareth. Images of Organization (Executive Edition). 1998 (Berrett-Kohler Publishers, Inc. and SAGE Publications Inc.: San Francisco), p. xi.

[2] Morgan also suggests viewing organizations as a Political System, a Psychic Prison, Flux and Transformation, and an Instrument of Domination. (p. vii-viii)

[3] Morgan, p. 111.

[4] Morgan, p. 13.

[ 1 Comment ]

  1. Jim H

    Not to be a jerk but as far as I can tell the only organization Gareth Morgan has ever managed is his one-man publishing, website & no doubt speaking engagements business.

    I’m not saying academics don’t have valuable insights to offer to the business world. But for this particular topic, some real-world experience in an actual non-academic organization would have added some credibility to Mr Morgan’s analytical framework. As it is, I see a bunch of abstract concepts and many words that will never be seen or used by the VAST majority of operating organizations


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Lean In (2013, Knopf) by Sheryl Sandberg stands out. And not because it’s one of the few memoir-style, business/management advice books written by a woman.[1]

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