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Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder follows the development of Data General, a microcomputer developer that began operations in the late 1960s. While most texts examining organizational behavior present a straightforward account of theory and application, Kidder’s text varies from this format by presenting the context of the organization in the format of a novel. Through the process of character and setting development, the author is able to illustrate a number of facets of organizational culture that might be difficult for readers to conceptualize otherwise. Soul of a New MachineAlthough this approach to teaching the basis of organizational behavior is somewhat unconventional, it does provide for the reader a better conceptualization of how theory works in practice.

Examining some of the basic tenets provided by Kidder in her text, it becomes clear that through an analysis of the problems encountered by Data General, the reader is able to grasp key implements of organizational development. For instance, in the early part of Data General’s development, Kidder notes that the organization was adding thousands of new jobs each year. Although this astronomical growth was a boon for investors, what Kidder shows through her analysis is that extraordinary growth must be balanced with the capacity of the organization to handle that growth. In short, it is possible that the organization can grow to quickly. Kidder notes: “In many cases, a small and daily growing computer company did not fall on hard times because people suddenly stopped wanting to buy its products. On the contrary, a company was more likely to asphyxiate on its own success”.

Kidder is not the only author to make this observation. An author (1996) contends that because of the very nature of organizational structure, the organization is thought to behave in a certain way. As such, regardless of the input that is placed in the system, the organization is expected to function seamlessly. Morgan argues that in many cases, managers and leaders view the organization as if it were a machine, capable of producing specific goals and objectives in an efficient manner.

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