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180 CHAPTER SIX The Mismatch of Organizational Imperatives and Money Any large-scale effort that is in the slightest way complicated needs to be undertaken in an organized form. Indeed, organizations have become the quintessential framework for much of modern life (factory, corporation, government body, military, voluntary association, and so forth). In the development assistance field, organizations are so self-evidently necessary that no one has questioned the form, and rightly so. Yet the more development assistance takes place through the medium of organizations, the more the natural imperatives of organizations run counter to the real mission of development . What are these imperatives, and how do they arise? The Inevitability of Organizational Imperatives The core characteristics of an organized form of activity in the modern world are obvious. Complex actions need to be planned, carried out, and paid for. Specialized functions come into being, such as production, supervision , management, administration, bookkeeping, public relations, research , and human resources. In a modern society, some of these functions will be dictated by laws (e.g., those spelling out the fiscal and other responsibilities of corporations or of nonprofits). To carry out these functions, people need to be hired, a place to house the activity needs to be found, and things need to be bought. To ensure that the work of the organization is uninterrupted, its work must not depend entirely on particular persons but rather on defined functions that any qualified person can fulfill. Thus rules, procedures, and systems arise and begin to take on a life of their own. The organization can even develop a “personality,” culture, or style, just as if it were a person. Often this is inadvertent; sometimes it is designed. After a while an organization becomes something greater than the sum of its parts: a living entity with its own needs and demands. Though an abstraction , the organization is capable of imposing demands and obligations on the people who work in it. Whether the organization is governmental , a multilateral agency, a foundation, or an NGO, its functions carry expectations, and these exist in a framework into which people are asked (even obliged) to fit. The everyday language we use to talk about our jobs attests to the organization’s independent life force: “A position is to be filled,” “Your function is . . . ,” “I’ve changed positions,” and the like. To the extent the missions, functions, systems, and procedures of the organization have the capacity to dictate action, they are imperatives. Daily the organization says “do this, do that,” “behave this way or that.” Moreover, it says to those who inhabit it that the organization’s survival and perpetuation are part of what the individuals who work in it must be responsible for. There is no nefarious design behind these imperatives. They evolve naturally . A primary—if not primal—organizational imperative is sheer survival . Even though an organization is not in itself tangible, it is harder to tear down an organization, reducing it to nothing, than it is to tear down a large building. Organizations, like persons, resist death. Today, in addition to survival, other common organizational imperatives are to grow, to become more important, to become more “legitimate” (achieve higher status), and to have greater “market share.” Indeed, the metaphor of resisting death is translated into common phrases in today’s organization culture, such as “grow or die” or “change or die.” All this seems obvious in talking about Boeing, Microsoft, or General Motors. These corporate organizations must compete with others that make similar products. For them, market share—the number of customers from the available pool of potential customers who might buy the product—is an essential imperative. One must drive everything toward achieving more of it. But what is “market share” to IFAD, the World Bank, USAID, or CARE? What does “grow or die” mean to CARE or Save the Children? When I joined the Peace Corps in 1964, one of our most coveted beliefs was that we were going to the third world “to work ourselves out of a job.” This was not just a slogan but official policy as well. It reflected a clear (if touchingly innocent) understanding that if development is successful, development organizations (and Peace Corps volunteers) will no longer be needed. We do not hear development agencies (including the Peace Corps) talking like this today, and it is not just because they realize the “job” is not done. We do see much evidence that the organizations...


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