Organisational Satisfiers and Contra-satisfiers
If an organisation is treated as a system, then its satisfiers are its inputs, its processes are its function, and its outputs are satisfiers or contra-satisfiers for others. Note that these others can be a part of the organisation, another familial organisation, or a non-familial organisation. A business which manufactures ice cream requires inputs such as milk, sugar, premises, equipment, electricity, employees, recipes, and so on. These are its satisfiers. Its outputs are ice cream which satisfies the needs of distributors, retailers, and customers. A contra-satisfier for this organisation might, for example, be an outbreak of listeria in the factory.
The behaviour of an organisation is governed by its motivators. These are the status of its satisfiers and contra-satisfiers, i.e., whether a satisfier or contra-satisfier is absent, latent, precarious, or entrenched. An organisation is self-maintaining, and its aim is to ensure that all satisfiers are entrenched and all contra-satisfiers absent. In the case of satisfiers, the organisation responds to opportunities. In the case of contra-satisfiers, it responds to threats or risks. There is an industry of consultants providing business organisations with a plethora of strategies for doing so. These can be researched on the internet, and I will not therefore go into detail here.
In summary, however, the source of satisfiers and contra-satisfiers is the organisation’s environment, and the organisation will either:
- adapt to changes in its environment, e.g., by altering its function;
- attempt to extend its environment, e.g., through globalization; or
- attempt to alter its environment, e.g., through advertising, moving to another country, or offshoring.
In doing so it alters its environment which, of course, includes other organisations. They too will adapt to any changes, further alter the environment, and a complex dynamic situation can result.
Individuals make their initial decisions sub-consciously, using improvements to their overall emotional state as a basis. However, before acting, they consciously criticize their initial decision in a more rational way, and if it is unsatisfactory, tell the sub-conscious mind to go back and think again. The same is true of organisations but with some differences.
- The initial decision may be by a leader or other member of the organisation who has already gone through the individual decision-making process. Significantly, there may be several competing initial decisions from different sources.
- Initial decisions must be communicated and there are many ways in which this can fail. The decisions may simply not be communicated; they may contain information that is false at source; they may contain deliberately false information; they may be expressed inaccurately; they may be transmitted inaccurately; they may be interpreted inaccurately; the recipients may suffer information overload; or the recipients may modify them to fit their existing schemata. Many of these problems do not arise when an individual is deciding on their own personal actions.
- The initial decisions are subject to conscious review by other members of the organisation. Any found to be unsatisfactory are rejected, and the originator is either asked to think again, or a satisfactory competing decision is accepted. Individuals may consider competing options in this way, but only when the decision is highly significant. On a day-to-day basis, individuals act on the first option recognised to be both satisfactory and sufficient. However, organisations have a greater tendency to seek optimal solutions. Decision making in organisations is generally less emotional and more rational, because individuals tasked with decision-making are responsible to one another and must justify and explain their decisions. Justifying rationales are possible, however.
- Organisational decision-making is a considerably slower process than that of an individual. The larger the organisation the slower the process.
- Several organizational decisions can be in progress at any one time. In some ways this is the same for individuals, as we do try to satisfy multiple needs with a single action. However, in an individual, this process is well coordinated, whereas in an organisation it may not be, and contradictions can arise.
- There can be contradictions between a leader’s needs, which may have a greater personal and emotional basis, and the organisation’s needs. In individuals this contradiction does not exist, except perhaps for those with a mental illness. Individuals are masters of their own actions. Organisations are not.
- The principle of sub-optimisation recognises that a focus on optimising the performance of one component of an organisation can lead to greater inefficiency in the organisation as a whole. This is because efficiencies for one part of the organisation can lead to inefficiencies in another. Rather the whole organisation must be optimised if it is to perform at maximum efficiency, and individual components must sometimes operate sub-optimally.