Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Journey - from Franz Kafka to Organisational Theory...

Some posts on FB told me today that today is Franz Kafka's birth anniversary (I didn't know that!)
- and thus these meanderings of times gone past...
and this post...

Many, many years back, when I was in late teens, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, Fannon etc. used to be the staple diet - breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner - of life...
and then life took its own turns, and took/led me elsewhere through its own mysterious designs and destinies...
 
But vestiges linger, and "everything returns".. so when wrote my first book (on Organizational Design) Kafka came back.. and this is how the book started:

Chapter 1 Interpreting Organisational Reality
The (anti‑)hero of Franz Kafka’s The Castle is a wanderer, searching for a sense of identity. His name is K, no more than that. Wishing to escape from his lonely rootlessness, he tries desperately to seek acceptance from the ambiguous authority structure of the castle. But his attempts to make a meaningful contact with the authorities turn out to be frustrating. He is unable to fathom the vagueness and ambiguity, not to mention the stark impersonality of the echelons of the castle. Their procedures seem arbitrary, devoid of any humane, or even meaningful, content. At times he feels he is being unfairly treated and so responds with ineffectual defiance. But a more common feeling is of self‑doubt, a sense of guilt, that it must be his own fault. If there is a rule, it has to have a rationale, some meaning, even if one finds it difficult to comprehend it.  In his isolation and his inability to make a confident response, he senses that the problem must be with him only, not with the authorities.
He feels indecisive, and that he must keep on trying. There must be some way of satisfying the unclear requirements of the authorities, to behave satisfactorily so that they will accept him. If he could only figure out the rules, he would follow them.
In many ways, the allegory of The Castle is an archetypal version of the contemporary individual in an organisation. Of course, organisations are not as unpredictable as the castle. But they are complex enough systems to create a bewildering array of inconsistent images, and bring out our most deep‑seated anxieties, predispositions and biases. For K, unable to comprehend how the authorities of the castle functioned, the castle became the canvas on which his personal inferiority, his need to belong, his loneliness could be projected; like most of us, K lived in a world of his own making; more so, because he (again, like many of us) lacked the conceptual options of viewing and interpreting his world in any other manner. The tragic consequence was his loss of individuality and an abject dependence on the authorities. This probably is the single most important reason for any practising or potential manager to develop an insight into the organisational reality.

1 comment:

Himanshu Rai said...

Never had Kafka.. but I am sure after reading this post that I should start reading his works.