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INTRODUCTION Several management Authors have espoused different views on the study of organizations.

These views include those theories propounded by the classical management theorists and that propounded by the modern management theorists. The classical management school led by people like Frederick Taylor1 viewed organizations as machines. The technical problem of finding the best organizational design that enables tasks to be carried out efficiently, and the basic task of getting things done been reduced to paying the right rate for the job. They further viewed management as a process of controlling and directing employees in their work.

Due to the inherent limitations in the classical management theories, such as; 1) the only workplace motivator been pay which greases the organization so called machine, 2) Command and control management perspectives and 3) Universal management principles, activated other researchers to study into new theories which rested in overcoming the limitations of the classical management perspectives. Their ideas have had an enormous impact on the way we now think about organizations, with organization as organism being a key theory.

Organizations as Organisms To think about organizations as biological organism, it means to explore the parallels between living organisms and organizations. In as much as living organisms adapt to their environment and regulates their internal environment within the varying weather, organizations as much undergo organizational development through altering it structures and culture to adapt to new conditions in it business environment in order to thrive. Also, within organizations, there exist homeostasis by means of regulations and systems to control individuals and groups actions. More so, living organisms have their needs satisfied through another living organism. The same also happens to organisations. Companies may not exist if human beings are not employed to fill and make things work. Even virtual companies have people behind the scenes who run the company. Employees whose needs are satisfied well will operate more effectively, and obviously, can be classified as the lifeblood that run through the veins of the organisation to help the organization also satisfy its needs. Many organizational psychologist including Chris Argyris2, Frederick Herzberg3 and Douglas McGregor4 were then quick to see that jobs and interpersonal relations could be redesigned to create conditions for personal growth that would simultaneously help organizations achieve their aims and objectives. Thus, the idea of integrating the needs of individuals and organizations becoming a powerful force. Particular attention was focused on the idea of making employees feel more useful and important by giving them meaningful jobs through structures, leadership styles, and work organization generally modified to create enriched, motivating jobs.

Analysis The analysis captures two of the suggested areas of modification proposed by Organizational psychologists, which is: organisational structure and leadership. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana is selected to discuss the subject; organizations as organisms with the aim of identifying and discussing; 1. 2. 3. the institution as a biological organism using structure and leadership, It strength as a biological organism and It limitation as a biological organism.

Using Organizational Structure The purpose of the organizational structure is the division of work among members of the organization, and the co ordination of activities so that members are directed towards the goals and objectives of the organization (Mullins, 2007). An organizational chart illustrates the organizational structure. Figure 1 depicts KNUST organizational arrangement.

University Council


Vice Chancellor



Registrars Offices

Finance Officer

Internal Auditor

Director of Univ. Info. Tech.

Directors of other services



Health Sciences

Arts & Social Science Agric. & Natural Res. Other Schools

Figure 1: KNUST Organizational Structure

Employing the contingency approach for the analysis, Lynch (2006)5 points out, every organization is unique in size, services, people, leadership and culture, and thus it design must satisfy it organizational and individual needs. Further, Mullin (2006)6 also states that, to distinguish between an organizational structure as making it an organism or a machine will be most pronounced in it operation and service functions. Drawing from the above theories, the structure above satisfies it organizational need, but it is a hybrid type, a mixture of organic and mechanistic structures, attributable to the difference in perception between the academic staffs (vertical to the Provosts) and the non teaching staffs (vertical to the Registrar). The non teaching staff have an important function in helping to keep the organization operational and ensuring compliance, and may fail to understand why the academic staffs appear to find it difficult, or resent, working within prescribe administrative procedures. The academic staffs may well feel that they can work effectively only within an organic structure, and tend to see non teaching staffs as bureaucratic and resistant to novel or different ideas.

How does this organizational structure make KNUST a biological organism? 1. Concept of Homeostasis.

The concept of homeostasis refers to self regulation and the ability to maintain a steady state. Biological organisms seek a regularity of form from the environment while maintaining a continuous exchange with that environment. This function is thoroughly been performed by non teaching staffs by ensuring compliance to status, policies, government regulations, laws and standards to control internal activities whilst ensuring strict compliance with external requirements.


The Principle of Functional Interdependence

The life of a simple cell is dependent on a complex web of relations between cellular structure, metabolism, gas exchange and the acquisition of nutrients from other parts of the cellular structure. With the KNUST organizational structure being a matrix type, decisions taking by heads of departments are done in collaboration with other unit heads of specialized knowledge, making it a cellular structure at every point of intersection within the organizational structure, thus making it an organism. For instance, the decision of a college to undertake a project is taken by the College Board (a cellular system) composed of the Provost, the College Registrar, the College Finance Officer, Deans of Faculties and Heads of Departments. Following this analogy, it can be said that departmental boards are cells, faculty boards as molecules, college boards as organs and KNUST as an organism.


Principle of Requisite Variety

Existent in a biological organism is its complex and distinctive parts performing a variety of functions that can clearly be identified. For instance, the legs for walking, eyes for sight, etc., clearly, the organizational structure detail all the varieties within the system in terms of grouping into colleges charged with common programmes, functional units charged with specialized function (e.g. Finance Office) and all activities been integrated at the top (i.e. the Vice Chancellors Office)

Obviously, as all the perceived needs of individuals, groups and the organization KNUST like an organism is well satisfied through the organizational structure, it can be said to operate effectively. Thus, KNUST as a biological organism.

Using Leadership Organizational Leadership is the ability to influence the attitudes and opinions of others in order to achieve a co ordinate effort from a diverse group of employees. Leadership is another way to image an organization as an organism. Leadership at KNUST is well devolved through the organization, differentiated power resting within the Colleges led by the Provosts through to leaderships within academic departments, and integrated at the top, this is, at the Vice Chancellors office. (KNUST Corporate Strategic Plan, PLAN2K14, 2005) According to Lawrence and Lorsch (1969)8, successful firms are firms that achieve an appropriate degree of differentiation and integration of organizational subunits due to the varying characteristics of each subunit. In this regard, leadership does not have to be necessarily at the top hierarchy, but as many people should be permitted to operate as leaders depending on the variety of the organizational subunits.

How does this Leadership style make KNUST a biological organism? 1. Need satisfaction

Individuals ego need is adequately satisfied through the creation of an enriched job environment with added-on leadership role, at a minimum one probably heads an academic department, for instance, Head of Agro forestry department with the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for a 2 year term, the collection of people with this and other leadership role is significant, and as their need is satisfied to the ego level, they will operate effectively to satisfy the organizations need of strategy and goals accomplishment. As stated earlier, Biological organisms depend on other biological organisms for the satisfaction of need.


The Operation of the Brain

The brain of living organisms is composed of some complex organs performing specialized functions with others performing integration to maintain the whole organism. From the leadership style, college leadership is based on specialization being integrated at the top of the hierarchy through the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar. This leadership practice gives it an attribute of the brain, thus, KNUST as an organism.

Strengths and Limitations of KNUST as an organism Interestingly, this mirage of an organization as an organism might dissuade many from understanding it relevance of shaping management thought and any likely limitations. Discussed below are debates as to whether KNUST can be a biological organism, and what are the strengths, if it is a biological organism:

Strength 1. By understanding the organization as an organism, one can appreciate the relationship within the organization and its environment and the exchanges occurring within the environment. Stakeholders can further appreciate that so long as key processes are functioning in an effective manner, everything may be going well. 2. To see the organization as an organism, management can continually make the effort of satisfying needs as this will enable the organization to operate well. 3. Managers are alerted to the fact that in organizing there are always a range of options contingent on environmental circumstances, and therefore, for the organization to be effective, it depends on the quality of choice. This is because environmental forces ultimately have the upper hand in determining the organizational fate, and so, adaptation becomes necessary.


It stresses novelty or innovation within controls. For instance, the perception between academic staffs and non teaching staffs in the running of a university already discussed above.


It stresses on achieving an appropriate fit between the organization and its environment, especially through the contingency approach.


A well thought - through focus on the organizations ecology and inter-organizational relations, for instance, the university council announced late 2010 about establishment of various campuses nationwide and possibly going international. This certainly is a new ecology for the institution, if the organizational ecologists are correct about the how and what to do, it can deal with the complex environment it is about to face.

Limitations Though this theory rested in overcoming the limitations of the classical management perspectives, there are major limitations to view an organization such as KNUST as an organism: 1. Nature presents itself as being objective and real in every aspect, we can touch and feel living things, one cannot touch or feel the institution called KNUST, because it is nominal. It is true that, there are material aspects of organizations such as buildings, land, money and depend for life on the creation of human beings, but the point is it lack that material structure of an organism. 2. A second limitation of the concept is functional interdependence. For instance, a lay down of tools by university administrators did not hold back university lecturers to lecture as far as they still have access to their offices and classrooms. Meanwhile, relating that to a human being system, should his heart stop functioning, his life is threatened, this is very converse to most organizations like KNUST.

Conclusion Given the rich and varied insight generated about KNUST as a biological organism based on its organizational structure and leadership, it can be established that the theory of organization built on the idea that individuals, groups and organizations like biological organisms operate more effectively when their needs are satisfied, can be applied to it situation. References 1. 2. Taylor, F. W. (1947), Scientific Management, Harper & Row. Argyris C. quoted in Woodward, J. (1980) Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press pp. 69, 71 3. 4. 5. Herzberg, F. W. et al (1959), The motivation to work, 2nd Edition, Chapman and Hall McGregor, D. (1987), The Human Side of Enterprise, Penguin Lynch, R. (2006) Corporate Strategy, 4th Edition, Financial Times Prentice Hall, p. 582 6. Mullins L. J. (2006), Management and Organizational Behaviour, 8th Edition, Financial Times Prentice Hall, Harlow, UK, p. 612 7. KNUST (2005), Corporate Strategic Plan, PLAN2K14, available at: (last accessed: 29/11/2012) 8. Lawrence, P. R. and Lorsch, J. W. (1969), Organization and Environment, Irwin

(This piece is only an academic exercise and subjected to reviews)