Organizations are complex adaptive systems. In effect there are a large number of agents (i.e. participants) whose interactions and outcomes help the organization adapt to its environment. This is much like a chess game in which each move changes the nature of the board.
Today’s organizations face a broad array of challenges; perhaps too many challenges to talk about intelligently. The real issue becomes the host of economic, political, and social factors that create a plethora of characteristics, behaviors and variables of interest. All of this churns in an ecosystem that is highly complex and dynamic.
A pathological condition exists when one or more variables remain for a significant period beyond their ranges of stability, or in which the costs of adjustment processes required to keep them within their ranges of stability are significantly increased. Notice the operative terms: variables, ranges of stability, and adjustment process.
Organizational Pathology is an analytical construct for examining the organizational ecosystem. It is used to describe a wide range of behaviors, conditions, and processes that affect organizational performance. Inevitably the construct provides insight into organizational stresses, the response mechanisms, and adaptive strategies.
The Organizational Pathology construct is illustrated as follows:
The Organizational Pathology Construct
The construct illustrates several levels and combinations that can contribute to a pathological condition. We can see from this diagram that the range and depth of pathology can vary greatly. The broad categories depicted here are guideposts rather than definitive pathology categories. In general terms these topic areas are the anatomic components of pathology – they are the systemic reasons that pathologies arise.