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Understanding Organizations…or, Smith’s Extrapolation from ‘The First Myth of Management’

Parker Smith is a tenured MMY associate with 30 years as an IT consulting veteran. A graduate of West Point, Parker’s intelligence, dedication and work ethic has made him one of our most sought after analysts. His background includes project management, reporting systems development, application development, relational database design and implementation, business intelligence analysis, and software analysis and testing. Parker has been kind enough to share an eight part series entitled “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me”.

Understanding Organizations

Or, Smith’s Extrapolation from ‘The First Myth of Management’

There’s an old business school joke about The First Myth of Management, which goes: ‘The first myth of management is that it exists.” It makes the point that a lot more happens in organizations than things which are the direct result of active management.

I’ve got a variant of this idea, applied to organizations, which I express as ‘The first myth of any organization is that it exists’. What I mean by this is that any organization as a whole is a fairly abstract thing, incorporating some number of people, policies, procedures, agreements, and locations – and that these components are all changing over time.

In other words, when you go out to lunch, you don’t deal with “McDonalds”, you deal with a cashier at a particular franchise who is concerned with getting you your nuggets and fries, and who is not directly concerned about the public relations implications of using paper cups rather than Styrofoam.

When you deal with an organization it is useful to understand it at multiple levels.

Most immediately important to you are the parts of the organization that incorporate the people you are working for, and the people that you are working with. Of that, most important of all are the actual people. If this is obvious to you, great! But it is sometimes all too easy to get caught up with considering the organization and losing track of the individuals that it is made of.

None of this is to say that there is no value in considering the organization as a whole, or knowing what its major divisions and departments are doing. That’s a source of information about organizational goals and values that may very well be useful for you to know and apply to your interactions with the ‘on the ground’ people that you are dealing with. Just keeping up with the news on a client company can serve to show that you are both interested and informed.

So, seek to keep informed about the organization you are dealing with as a whole, but put most of your focus on the representatives that you are dealing with. As the view gets wider and more abstract, seek to keep track of enough to provide context for the work that you are doing.

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