Barnard's Cooperative System
Chester I. Barnard was a former president of New Jersey Bell Telephone
who wrote The Functions of the Executive (1938), and was associated with
the human relations group at Harvard
(i.e. Mayo, Roethlisberger, and Henderson). His was influential because
is was one of the first attempts at a comprehensive organizational theory.
"Barnard stressed that organizations are essentially cooperative systems,
integrating the contributions of individual participants" Scott p.
62 He defined the organization as "that kind of cooperation among men
that is conscious, deliberate, and purposeful". Organizations rely
on the willingness of participants and secure it through a variety of inducements
(material rewards, opportunities for distinction, prestige, personal power,
etc.). However, these efforts must be directed toward a purpose, and "the
inclucation of belief in the real existence of a common purpose is an essential
executive function" (Barnard p. 87).
Goals are imposed from above but willingness comes from the bottom up. Authority
only is realized when those below accept and comply with that authority.
"Communication, authority, specialization, and purpose are all aspects
comprehended in coordination" (Barnard p. 174). Thus an organization
is a purposefully coordinated system of communications linking all participants
(Scott p. 63).
While some of Barnard's views are rationally-based, he separates himself
from the rational camp by his insistence on the non-material, informal,
interpersonal, moral basis for cooperation. Material rewards are seen as
"weak incentives" that require other psychological supports to
fully secure willing compliance. Formal organizations create and require
"But the most critical ingredient to successful organization is the
formation of a collective purpose that becomes morally binding on participants"
(Scott p. 63). This is the function of the executive who creates the moral
code for the other participants (highly critized by Perrow as moral imperialism).
But he acknowledges that often the overriding purpose is abandoned if organizational
survival is threatened.
Barnard acknowledges the environment more than others in the human relations
school, though he doesn't explicitly define it or conceptualize it.