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Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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8.1 Reflecting on ‘organisation’

What do you think of when you use the term ‘organisation’? The following activity is designed to help you reflect on what is meant by organisation.

Activity 8 Drawing a spray diagram

Draw a spray diagram of some of the organisations that you have engaged with in the last day or so. You don’t need to provide specific names, just the type of organisation.

Thinking about the organisations you identify, what are their defining characteristics?

(Note: guidance on drawing spray diagrams is available in the Guide to Diagrams [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)


Described image
Figure 3 Spray diagram of organisations

My spray diagram is deliberately general. I could have extended out the engagement for any one. For example, gas or water company could be extended to include meter manufacturer, pipe manufacturer, gas producers, oil companies, gas wholesale markets, safety inspectorate and so on. While this would be stretching the point, the organisation I ‘see’ is just one aspect of a much larger system.

The reasons they seem to be organisations to me is that they have some sense of identity and purpose – they exist and they ‘do’ something, by providing an activity, product or service. They also have more than one person in that organisation all working towards some purpose, even if that purpose may not always be immediately apparent to me or even to those involved at different levels. So I think the defining characteristics of an organisation are:

  • a recognisable identity
  • a recognisable purpose
  • a group of people acting to achieve that purpose.

This activity also made me question what I might interpret by ‘engaged’ – does using a software programme today mean I have, at that moment, engaged with the organisation that developed it some years earlier? If I drive my car, does it mean I have engaged with the company that built it or the transport agency that manages the road networks?

The characteristics identified in my answer to Activity 8 are generic and could be applied to any kind of organisation whether business, government, the third sector, religion, clubs and so on. The definition does not make a judgement about the legality, usefulness or social acceptability of the organisation.