Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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8.4 Structure

Part of the definition of organisation that was provided earlier describes organisation as a group of people.

Some form of organisational structure and process are needed to manage the activities and interactions of the people in the organisation. This serves as a useful reminder that the structure of an organisation is not purely a physical structure (i.e. relating to buildings etc.). It can also consist of networks of interactions, relationships and activities, which have direct consequences in terms of environmental management. Even in the smallest organisations, these interactions can be complex – as organisations increase in size or scope, more people, resources and activities add to the sense of complexity.

But what does an organisation ‘look’ like? It is often the case that only parts of an organisation are ‘visible’ or engaged with. In addition, your perception or experience of an organisation may not be shared by another.

Activity 10 encourages you to take a step back to enable reflection on what is understood as the organisation.

Activity 10 Draw a rich picture of your chosen organisation

Using the same organisation you selected for Activity 9, draw a rich picture of the organisation. You can refer to anything about the organisation, including physical things (e.g. buildings or people), relationships, influences and activities within the organisation.

Did you learn anything new about your understanding of the organisation in drawing the rich picture?

(Note: guidance on drawing rich pictures 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 5 Rich picture

My rich picture shows the school from my point of view. This was harder to draw than I expected, as I kept wanting to focus on the physical aspects of the school and to almost draw a ‘painting’ of the school. I had to resist this (although I did show the school building in the centre) and remind myself that the organisation is fulfilling a purpose – its function.

For example, in the forecourt of the school, a line of uneducated students are walking in and educated students are walking out, emphasising the main purpose of the school. Reflecting the emphasis on meeting targets, teachers are shown as archers, aiming arrows at the ‘rain of targets’ falling out of the sky on to the school. Some targets are hit, but some are missed and become ‘failures’.

To highlight some of the school’s connections to the natural environment, I have shown the waste from the school going into several bins – although I am not sure what happens to the waste thereafter. A wooded area is fenced off – the children have no time to play in the woods. Nearby, traffic problems are shown by the chaotic mess of cars in front of the school, with a driver explaining that they have to go by car because the roads are too busy and, therefore, unsafe. A developer is also planning to turn an athletics track into housing.

In drawing the rich picture, I learnt that the organisation is focused on its core purpose, although perhaps I didn’t represent as fully as I might have the people who work towards this purpose and their interactions – particularly the decision making aspects. I also learnt that when drawing a rich picture I need to avoid my tendency to show ‘literal’ views of the organisation as a set of buildings.

If you showed your rich picture to another person who was also familiar with the organisation you chose, do you think they would be able to recognise it or agree with your perspective? Rich pictures can be very useful for reflecting on your understanding of something. You will build on this in later activities.

But of course, most organisations do not represent themselves using rich pictures. Instead, they use quite formalised ways of thinking about and communicating their structures.

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