SOCI 3328: Complex Organizations

SOCI 3328: Organizations: Structures, Processes, and Outcomes

Essay 1

After reading chapters 1 and 2, describe and explain what an organization is. Define the term, ‘complex organization.’ Discuss some examples (minimum two) of organizations that you are a part of in your daily life. What is the nature of these organizations and what is the structure of these organization, what type of organizations are a part of your life (ie; for profit, non-profit, etc..). Use both your experience and the text/lecture to write this essay.

     Over the course of my life, I have been involved in many organizations. From my earliest Sunday school church memory to my most recent re-entry into college, organizations have been, and remain, a big part of my life. As someone who appreciates the structure afforded by organizations, it is easy for me to involve myself in different organizations, and in very different ways. For example, in the local fire department, I am a volunteer & donate my time to help the fire department achieve their goals. However, my involvement with the WordPress.org organization isn’t so altruistic; I volunteer my time and services in that community so as to leverage their resources and advance my career.  From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I fall asleep at night, my life seems to weaves in and out of many different organizations. But what is an organization, exactly? The term is innocuous and vague. In this paper, I will attempt to briefly define the term and share two examples of organizations I am involved in and offer a short conclusion with my personal thoughts on organizations.

First, the term “organization” can be defined as a collective body of people/participants who have come together to achieve a common goal; the organization provides a means to an end for these participants. While these purpose-driven communities can be structured in a number of ways (local/global, formal/informal, for/not for profit, vertical/spatial, etc.), the end result, or goal outcomes, remain the primary focus. The structure of the organization can change over time but the nature of the organization will most likely remain the same. Organizations can be simple or complex. Simple organizations generally have, well, a simple focus and simple directives, and simple governments. Whereas complex organizations are made up of many people, have many different systems and processes and rules, have many different levels of members, and can have multiple goals and directives. Most organizations seem to be complex in nature. Organizations can exist to serve many purposes – both good and bad – and can be very effective (or not at all effective) in achieving their goals. Even if one believes they are not involved in any specific organization, organizations are a part of everyday life for everyone.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, one organization I am involved in is the Morgan’s Point Resort Fire Department (MPRFD). The MPRFD is made up of both paid and volunteer fire fighters and emergency services technicians who serve the local community in response to fire, medical, and water rescue emergencies, along with a handful of volunteers who help manage administrative duties related to running a fire department. The nature of this organization is to safely serve its local community. While I am not a firefighter or medical responder, I am an active volunteer in this organization. I help the chief manage things such as data entry of reports into the RMS (records management system), fundraising events, and community outreach involvement in events such as Toys for Tots, school career day events, the local Fourth of July Rodeo, etc. The MPRFD is a complex organization that is vertically & spatially organized with a centralized power (the chief) who answers to a bureaucratic organization outside of the department (city council and city manager). The organization is vertically organized in that all the members are under the direction of a Chief, Assistant Chief, Lieutenants, and Captains. There is a clear chain of command, but ultimately most decisions are in the hands of the chief. The organization is spatially organized in that there is one Fire Services Building to serve most of the community, but there is also a second location and fleet of apparatus and tools that live at the Morgan’s Point Resort Marina and stand at-the-ready to respond to water emergencies on Lake Belton. Lake Belton is ultimately under the control of the US Army Corp of Engineers, but MPRFD and two other local fire departments, are responsible for managing boat/water rescue calls for the majority of the lake. This, in itself, creates a myriad of organizational complexities. The MPRFD has a positive impact on the communities(s) it serves and is a critical part of the greater Central Texas region at large.

Another organization I am involved in is the WordPress.org Foundation. WordPress.org is a community-driven organization that maintains and advances the source code for WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system. Over 25% of all websites currently up and running are built off the WordPress codebase; the goals and focus of this organization impact almost everyone who uses the Internet today. The WordPress.org foundation exists specifically to make sure that the community can continue to maintain this open source software and protect the users who depend on it for their livelihood. WordPress.org also organizes and promotes WordCamps, which are local, community-driven, seminars and workshops to help people who run WordPress websites or make their living within the WordPress ecosystem. The WordPress.org organization is spatially organized in that it is entirely fully-distributed meaning that 100% of the members live all over the world and the entire organization is run remote via the web. However, there is a governing body that helps to manage community issues and deal with the organization at large. This governing body is also 100% remote; there is no literal WordPress.org foundation headquarter building. As a member of the WordPress.org community, I am active in speaking & volunteering at WordCamps, helping people in my community find and maintain employment, working within the WordPress economy itself, and sharing information with the community at large. From 2013 – 2015, I attended &/or spoke at over a dozen WordCamps; however, in 2016, with my return to school full-time, I’ve scaled back my travels & involvement. When I’m finished with law school, I’ll circle back to the community and volunteer more time and resources. It is like family to me.

It is really hard to describe and discuss the two organizations that I am involved with, in brief. Even though MPRFD is small in size, the services provided touch the lives of thousands of people and the work being done at our local fire department is starting to shape how other volunteer-based fire departments run, train, and manage their fire fighters at the state level. And the WordPress.org Foundation is actually a critical organization to users the world over. It’s a powerful and important 21 Century organization that will be around for decades and it originated right here in Texas. It’s exciting to be involved in two organizations whose goals are user focused and whose nature is community-driven, community-powered, and service-oriented. Lastly, both organizations I’ve mentioned are complex. WordPress.org Foundation is exceedingly complex with organizations inside of organizations. (Such as the Accessibility team within the Core Development Team.) Fire departments are equally complex but provide the stability and order required for a first response team to perform appropriately.

In conclusion, organizations can move mountains, but the mountain only gets moved because the people inside the organization are all pushing at the same time. WordPress, for example, would not exist if it were not for the hundreds of volunteers working to keep the code base up to date and fully secure for the millions of websites running on the platform. A mountain is moved, but only because of the collective force. Therefore, organizations themselves are very self-referential. What does an organization do? Whatever the people in the organization want the organization to do. How does the organization do it? However, the people in the organization determine it will be done. Organizations are complex but necessary, parts of our lives and, in short, it seems that organizations make the world go around.