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Insight into organization: A method for inquiry and ethical leadership. MPA 8002 The Structure and Theory of Human Organization Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D. Since the time of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). an “organization” has been viewed as an achievement, a product of experimentation.

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Insight into organization a method for inquiry and ethical leadership l.jpg

Insight into organization:A method for inquiry and ethical leadership

MPA 8002

The Structure and Theory of Human Organization

Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D.

Since the time of francis bacon 1561 1626 l.jpg

Since the time of Francis Bacon (1561-1626)...

  • an “organization” has been viewed as an achievement, a product of experimentation...

…as people hypothesize about what constitutes “best practice”

…and devote themselves to improving organizational functioning

Organization is viewed as a product of an objective scientific method l.jpg

Organization is viewed as a product of an objective, scientific method...

  • where humans control conditions in order to reproduce existing knowledge and reduce anomalies

  • with the goal of increasing productivity

…by moving from defective forms of knowledge to more accurate forms

…by working within and replicating a tradition

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“To see what one knows”...

a conjecture about organization


a conceptual schema to be subjected to further testing


culminating in a body of knowledge


…and is used to analyze human beings and their conscious activities

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  • an organization is...

…an objective entity

…a product of science

…an instrument or tool of the hand

…an entity serving as a means to productive ends

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The word “organization”...

  • a Greek noun (organon)...

  • identifying...

…a mentality or formation of the mind emanating from the human spirit

…evidenced in the various ways human beings structure conscious activities

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“To know what one sees”...

human experience and conscious activities...

a perception about human existence


an unconditioned grasp of the nature of reality


various ways to “look at” reality


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Substantively, investigating organization...

  • is an intellectual endeavor by which human beings attempt to achieve intelligent understanding about the ways human beings structure their conscious activities

  • as this endeavor is fueled by a keen desire to improve the lot of humanity and civilization

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  • to get behind the mediated intelligence, understanding, and knowledge...

…so as to gain insight into organization

…and to develop new intelligence about organization

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Substantively, managing and leading human organizations requires...

  • practical intelligence that is generated by the self-correcting process of learning (Lonergan, 1972)

  • questioning

  • evaluating

  • thinking

  • self-evaluation

  • formulating

  • being

  • testing

  • objectivity

  • judging

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 researching the data of human experience

 comprised of material content and operational content

  • Is it mere data?

  • Is it meaningful data?

  • Is it the truth?

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 to receive the tradition

 an invitation to know by “taking a good look at” the concepts bequeathed from the past

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 an unconditioned reflective grasp, the constitutive factor in knowing, that precedes and determines truth (i.e., insight)

 a subjective achievement of radical intellectual development by which the human being discovers in oneself precisely experienced mental operations and the dynamism that leads from one type of self understanding to another

 to develop an appreciation of history by seeing the series of interpretations in a sequential pattern and trying to determine what was going forward

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 to verify what knowledge is (not that knowledge exists)

  • What may this mean?

  • What does this mean?

  • How does this fit?

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 defining history

  • Is this first in itself (i.e., truth)?

  • Is it first for us (i.e., an insight)?

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 finding the present by discovering the hidden suppositions at work in the tradition

 an awareness that humans are prone to understand data within the limits of their own horizons

 engaging in a dialectic between past and present

 moving toward the moment of decision by articulating one’s personal stance

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 restlessly seeking fulfillment in the true, the real, and the good (“to be ethical,” Aristotle, 1958)

  • to do the right thing

  • to the right person

  • at the right time

  • in the right way

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 by articulating one’s personal stance through four functions:

  • foundations: the words by which one expresses one’s character and attitudes

  • theories: transforming foundations into understandable categories (Bolman & Deal, 1997)

  • systems: engaging others in purposive cooperation (Barnard, 1938)

  • communications: adapting the purpose to contexts so as to enhance unity in diversity

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 the function of managing and leading a diverse group of people to develop insight and creativity in dealing with reality

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 apprehending reality for what it truly reveals

 acting conversant with reality

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Questioning has consequences...

  • gives rise to ideas…

…some of which are intended

…many of which are not intended

…but each of which human beings in this generation bear responsibility

…and future generations will pass judgment on

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and responsibilities...

…to avoid:

 conceptualism

 positivism

 modernity

 skepticism

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…the illusion that quoting others’ thoughts demonstrates one’s understanding and capacity to manage and lead an organization

…by integrating a variety of perspectives into a comprehensive understanding of organization.

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…the superstition that there exist unitary methods to discern truth infallibly about organization

…by inculcating openness to multiple perspectives.

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…the idolatry that this generation stands at the apex of human civilization

…by humbly retrieving, examining, and utilizing the genius of insight embedded in past organization.

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…the cynical suspicion that there is no truth

…by engaging in a restless search for insight that will allow the next generation to complete this generation’s job and make progress beyond this generation’s limitations.

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Investigating organization is not to study the past. The truly significant investigation is that of the future, leaving the task of interpreting this generation’s insight to future generations.

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The organization envisaged today remains to be perfected. Due to this generation’s lack of insight, most questions are very difficult, if not impossible, to answer fully.

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There is a sense in which the really tough questions about organization reduce managers and leaders to silence until they can engage in the dialectic of past and present.

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In this generation, all managers and leaders can hope to accomplish is to develop an interim organization, one substantively better because they were there and their insight offered a better way.

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Or, to put it in another way, that the people in the organization and the organization itself is better off because these managers and leaders were there.

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This module has focused on...

Insight into organization as a method for inquiry and ethical leadership...

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  • Aristotle. (1958). The Nicomachean ethics (W. D. Ross, Trans.). In J. D. Kaplan (Ed.), The pocket Aristotle (pp. 158-274). New York: Simon & Schuster.

  • Lonergan, B. (1972). Method in theology. London: Darton, Longman, & Todd.

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