The Competence Debate     Graduate Employability      Regeneration    
e-skilling & cyberontology
    Live Working Papers    Useful Links    Home page

Radical beginnings, conventional ends? Organizational transformation - a problem in the development of radical organizations

by Margaret Grieco and Len Holmes

[Published as chapter 3 in: Jenkins, G. and Poole, M. (eds.) (1990) New Forms of Ownership: Management and Employment, London: Routledge

The research on which this paper is based was undertaken at the London (now Local) Economic Policy Unit, Polytechnic of the South Bank, and funded by the Greater London Council]

The dynamics of transformation

The major purpose of this chapter is to draw attention to the problems experienced by radical agents and agencies in their attempts to develop and construct alternative forms of organization. The chapter indicates the character and nature of the problems of interaction between poorly resourced groups (the social base from which radical initiatives are typically drawn) and the more powerful and better-resourced funding agencies on which such popular' initiatives are typically dependent.

The structural disadvantages which generate the impetus or need for radical organization as a corrective mechanism, in the first instance, dictate that typically external funding will be necessary for the development of the new form. Radical organizations, initially at least, exist at the discretion of, and with the consent of, the powerful inside that same structure that disadvantages them and the effects of which they seek to combat. Hence the discussion of radical organizational forms cannot take place without reference to the controls and constraints placed upon them by the general funding structures within which they operate.

Our main argument here is that radical aims and forms of organization are frequently subverted or changed as a consequence of this interaction. This process is aptly characterized by the term 'organizational transformation'. Changes take place in the fundamental organizational structure without any accompanying change in organizational language, a situation which serves to disguise the extent to which fundamental changes have taken place. Put simply, our thesis is that radical intention and initial organizational form typically give way to radical rhetoric accompanied by a conventional management form; rather than treating such diversions of organizational goals and purpose as deviations from normality or as pathological, this chapter attempts to trace the dynamic and structural base on which such value slippage takes place.

It does so by using two particular radical organization case histories (the Charlton Training Centre and the Stonebridge Bus Garage Project), in which the authors were involved as either action researchers or managerial personnel, to illustrate properties which are deemed to be general. Each of the two organizations analysed have a central place in terms of radical approaches to the question of the relationship between vocational training and ethnicity in the UK. Similarly the funding agencies examined were the major funders of organizational experiments, i.e. radical organizations, within the UK during this period (radical labour- party-controlled local authorities such as the Borough of Brent and the Greater London Council and the European Economic Community Social Fund). Both these organizations were subject to fundamental changes in organizational purpose and form. That subversion or transformation into conventional forms occurred in these particular institutions provides strong ground for a deeper examination of this process. Our argument here is that the dynamics observed should not be viewed as maverick but rather viewed as typical. The analysis we provide here should in this respect be classified as lying within the radical structuralist paradigm (as identified by Burrell and Morgan 1979).

Our object, however, is not to produce a detailed case history of organizational change, though this may be a valuable task in itself (Pettigrew 1979), but rather to identify some general properties of the transformation of radical organizations into their conventional counterparts. The case study is used as a mechanism for illustrating processes which we perceive and believe to be general.

The attempt to develop organizational forms with alternative participative decision-making structures, which often represents the initial rationale for organizational birth, is typically, as in both these cases (see also Banfield and Hague, 1990), hi-jacked; for the processes of interaction between funding agencies and popular organizational forms give rise to the construction of conventional leaders and leadership forms.

To use terms developed in the social psychology of leadership (Hosking and Brown 1986; Hosking and Morley, 1988), the early stages of organizational formation evidence a pattern of distributed leadership, that is prior to the interaction with the funding agency; the later stages of organizational development exhibit a pattern of hierarchical or focused leadership. For whereas the earlier stages of organizational formation exhibit patterns of internal communication in which the initiating role moves easily amongst the interested membership (itself a very open and flexible structure), i.e. distributed leadership (Clarricoates 1985; Cain 1986), later organizational stages evidence patterns of strongly hierarchical and entrenched leadership, with little or no shift in the incumbency of powerful structural locations (Holmes 1987).

Power relations within the radical organization are affected and altered by the imperatives imposed by the need to service stronger and more established organizations in order to raise the finance necessary for survival. This process of organizational transformation is not confined to the post-funding stage or period, though clearly the ability of other agencies to steer the direction of organizational development (Child 1985) - both directly and indirectly - is accentuated by the actuality of funding and the implied threat of its withdrawal, but commences with the process of bidding and negotiating for external funds. For not only do goals have to be framed in a way which is compatible, consistent, or congruent with the dominant agency requirements but sets of pressures for the continuity and authoritativeness of personnel involved in the negotiating process are generated (Grieco and Holmes 1989).

Participative forms are time expensive and the bureaucratic imperative is to streamline the negotiations between popular planning forms and the funding agency. The work practices and organization of the dominant organization come to determine the work practices and organization of the radical institution. The 'inefficiency of democracy or participation', generated as a slogan in these formational stages, comes to be adopted as a slogan within the internal processes of the organization as its own physical development becomes more concrete. Even in these early stages, the language of technical efficiency is already operating to screen or force out those considerations of participation, justice, and social rebalancing which were the initiating rationale of the movement. The demands, or perceived demands, of the funding agency legitimate the initial organizational movement away from fully participative structures. External communication requirements come to dominate internal preferences for collective forms of operation (Mantle 1985).

As these practices of focused leadership develop, so incumbents have the organizational opportunity for the development of particular stakes, and in the absence of an earlier establishment of codes and practices to ensure that practices of leadership alternation and succession are consistent with a distributed leadership format, we should expect that Michels (1915) iron law of oligarchy will come into play.

In the same way that decision-making forms and processes are structured through the negotiating process into compliance, so the goals which are expressed, and the terms in which they can be expressed, have important and constraining impacts for radical organization. In order to obtain resources, objectives and aims have to be stated in terms consistent with the dominant view, that is to say, such organizations receive funding on the basis of goal descriptions which view the correction of problems as technical rather than political matters. The acceptance of these descriptions by the disadvantaged in their bid for resources has a confirmatory or legitimatory aspect.

In the case of the organizations we study here, this dynamic is clear. In order to obtain resources, the black community and indeed women collude in the skill-led and skill-deficiency models of labour-market change and practice. In the bid for resources, they are 'compelled' to acceptance of the understanding that their position in the labour market is explained in terms of their lack of possession of such skills. In this way, the attempt to set up training centres to serve these fractions of the labour market can be viewed as confirmatory at the level of the system. The deeper processes which structure the dimensions that are deemed relevant to situations of exclusion and inclusion, i.e. selection and recruitment, within the labour market are not addressed (Grieco, Pickup, and Whipp 1989; Grieco 1987; Lee and Wrench 1981; Manwaring 1982). The analysis remains at the surface; the discourse is shaped and orchestrated by the dominant interest. Furthermore, the adoption of skill-led strategies, where skill deficiency is not the actual principle of exclusion, forces the organization into failure. Its success, if one continues along this logic, is being measured in terms of the non- achievement of an impossible goal.

Two points are evident here: first, the establishment of radical organizations is functional for the system to the extent that, in order to obtain resources, radical agents and agencies are obliged to provide rationales in terms of the dominant understanding and, thereby, both embrace and are seen to embrace those explanations of social failure which place the blame on the disadvantaged themselves. Second, radical organizations are labouring under intensified difficulties; necessarily they are running marginal candidates in the context of mainstream or non-marginal competition which characterized the problem in the first instance.

In order to justify their existence, radical training centres, for instance, have to generate placement rates which better those of the conventional institutions. Indeed, claims that this is possible have to be constructed in order to obtain the desired resources. Yet typically such radical institutions operate in situations of severe funding uncertainty. Such funding uncertainties have important and serious side-effects, for, typically, these are associated with complex sets of arrangements designed to measure organizational performance which absorb disproportional amounts of the organization's energy and resources.

Massaging performance evaluations becomes a major organizational activity which heavily detracts from both the expressed and 'concealed' founding organizational goals. Radical or marginal organizations are more likely to experience these pressures than those with more conventional and congruent operational bases. In this respect radical organizations are frequently operating with their hands tied behind their backs.

Processes of power domination are not confined to the control of physical and financial resources but are also intellectual in character. The extent to which the structuring of research is determined by dominant power agencies mirrors and feeds in to the way in which the structuring of organizational forms is determined by dominant conventional organization (for a related point, see Burrell and Morgan 1979: 105).

Research commissioned by the sponsor of radical organizational structure and performance frequently takes the form of monitoring, or contains within it this potential. Sponsorship of the radical organization by the mainstream provides the institutional equipment for generating a greater number of organizational tasks than is necessary to the operation of the radical agency. Task proliferation can be viewed as an instrument for exhausting the energies and resources of radical agencies. It is not necessary to apply a conspiracy understanding to this situation of central/dependent organizational interaction; it is sufficient to note the self-evidence of the proposition that sponsorship should be accompanied by and provides an entitlement to stronger patterns of accountancy control over the subject or client within modern industrial society and that the consequence of this understanding, for the radical organization, is the dynamic of task proliferation.

An additional and related matter for consideration at this point is the consequences of narrow technical problem descriptions for the operation of radical organizations which such bureaucratic controls herald. The consequence is to close off other development options which are possible and better directed as either irrelevant or in conflict with the primary goal set through the funding process. Flexibility (and, therefore, the ability to respond to popular need and action) is reduced.

The thrust of this set of arguments is that the sponsorship of radical organizations and groups by dominant agencies can operate as a controlling device, serving to constrain popular pressure and conflict into more readily directable channels and institutions. Sponsorship permits radical initiatives to be encompassed and controlled by trans- forming their organizational forms, and thus permitting conflict to be defused in respect of the wider society, yet intensified within the radical organization itself. Conflict over resources which was previously directed at outside agencies is now internal to the black community itself. Conflict shifts from an inter-community to an intra-community domain. This analysis as to the institutionalization of conflict necessarily presents a problem for activist and researcher. The dynamics of cultural pluralism are less straightforward than contemporary discussion suggests.

The goal of this chapter is then to indicate the structural basis of the process of goal displacement experienced by alternative organizations (Etzioni 1961). Radical organizations exist by and with the consent of established conventional organizations; their weaker financial and resource basis determines their directability. They exist in a situation of structural dependency. Inevitably they experience a set of organizational dilemmas as a consequence of the tension between continued survival and adherence to founding values. Despite a radical organization's role as a response to existing structures of advantage/disadvantage, its basis for challenge is not independent. Those very properties of structural weakness which inform its birth carry through into all subsequent levels of organizational interaction and operation. To summarize, the implicit question posed by the chapter is that of the possibility of truly radical organization within capitalist society.

Micro-politics and the transforming organization: radical goal slippage

In order to provide a more grounded description of the shifts in organizational goals and practices, we provide an event history from each organisation as illustration. A fuller analysis of these events has been provided elsewhere.

Stonebridge 1: From community initiative to state enterprise

The Stonebridge Bus Garage Project was established in 1982 to convert a disused London Transport bus depot into a multi-purpose community centre. The centre was intended to provide facilities to the local community for arts, sports, and recreation, for social and welfare services, for education, training, and employment, and for establishing small enterprises. The local, 1960s-built high-rise Stonebridge housing estate has a large black population, over 70 per cent Afro-Caribbean, with a large proportion being young (under 25). Unemployment is very high, especially among young black males; crime rates in the local area are high, and there is a high rate of custodial sentences passed on young males convicted of crime. The area lies in the London Borough of Brent which has the highest proportion of ethnic-minority residents and is one of the poorest in the UK.

Much of the initiative for establishing the project came from an informally organized group of local young black people, the Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC). They had formed in early 1981 and converted the disused basement of a local health centre for their own use. In the autumn, when the bus depot was closed, they were key figures in the calls made by local community representatives for Brent Council to buy the site for conversion to community use, rather than allow its redevelopment for commercial gain. After a joint group of local councillors and community representatives produced a report making proposals for redevelopment of the site for community use, Brent Council bought the site. The site was given over (under licence) to a steering group consisting of seven members of HPCC, three other community representatives, and two councillors, one each from the two main political parties. The phrase 'community co-operative' was applied to the organization to be developed to run the centre. The report drew attention, with apparent approval, to the fact that 'the Community Council had no written constitution, no written rules, no formal system of membership and (had) not adopted many of the bureaucratic forms of administration which prevail in Britain today.'

The capital funding envisaged was just over 2 million. Of this 1.5 million was anticipated through the Urban Programme, a scheme for funding projects to combat inner-city deprivation. This funding was to be provided in equal instalments over three years. A further half million pounds was expected from the Greater London Council (GLC), the rest to come from a variety of smaller funding schemes (e.g. the Sports Council).

The steering group took over the site in May 1982. Funding was obtained from a variety of local and national government sources and the European Social Fund to employ a number of people ('co-ordinators') who had professional qualifications and experience in key areas: finance, architecture, business development, training. These were recruited and in post by January 1983, along with an overall project co-ordinator. Each co-ordinator was supported by one or two assistants, recruited from HPCC itself. Funding was also obtained through the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) to employ other staff. Clerical and administrative support staff were recruited along with building workers who rehabilitated semi-derelict areas of the site for temporary use until full-scale redevelopment took place.

In March 1983 the firm of architects appointed began to develop detailed redevelopment plans. Steering group meetings soon became dominated by issues about finance. The capital funding needed was uncertain until the architect had developed an initial scheme design. As the architect began producing outlines of a scheme design, in consultation with the steering group, the expected capital cost began to rise. By autumn 1983 the expected cost was about 3.5 million, and steering-group meetings became confused affairs as the complexities of 'promised', 'anticipated', and 'possible' sources of funding were discussed. By December 1983 the plans for a three-stage conversion had been agreed by the steering group to match the phased funding. However, the lowest tender received for stage A was half a million pounds more than anticipated, and over twice the funding which had been formally agreed. Moreover various officers at Brent Council and GLC expressed doubts about the projections made about the income the centre could expect. In March 1984, after representatives of Brent Council, GLC, and the Department of the Environment (DoE) had met to discuss this crisis, the steering group was asked to agree to an appraisal of the project by an 'independent consultant'.

The steering group agreed, expressing confidence that the plans would be proven feasible, with consequent increase in funding. The draft terms of reference from the DoE referred to the consultant's undertaking a 'financial appraisal' of the project and indicated that an examination of possible partnership with the private sector be made. The steering group replied by asking that the appraisal should be an economic and social one as well as financial, and that the reference to partnership with the private sector should take account of the objective of ensuring direction and control by the local community. These changes were not accepted by the DoE, but the steering group did not object to this and a consultant started some weeks later. The person appointed was, in fact, already working with the DoE on secondment from an international firm of accountants.

The consultant was provided with office accommodation but was rarely on site and postponed indefinitely a number of meetings with the key project staff. In an informal discussion with the finance co-ordinator he stated that he was attempting to develop a set of proposals which took the existing level of assumed funding as the basis for the cost of the centre. The consultant met with the steering group on 4 July 1984 to present his initial findings. The co-ordinators were excluded from the meeting, but Brent Council's link officer was present. The consultant then made a number of points including that, in his view, the project had been badly served by its professional advisers. He stated that he could not justify the cost of the proposed scheme (now estimated to be about 5.8 million). He criticized income projections as being unrealistic. The steering group agreed to consider his views and respond to them before he submitted his final report.

Following this, Brent Council's link officer proposed that the steering group produce a new report indicating its proposals in the light of recent events. An alternative scheme design was produced, the cost of which was likely to be between 2.3 and 3.6 million. A new, more conservative set of income projections was prepared, under which continuing funding from public sources were required. The new report was produced under the direction of the link officer and presented to all funding bodies. The report was accepted by Brent Council and there followed a period of frequent meetings between public officials and a small group of HPCC members, during which attempts were made to produce a proposal which was nearer to the existing level of funding. Eventually agreement was reached under which the architect was dismissed, Brent Council's Development Department took over, a new scheme design was produced and funding was approved. The DoE insisted that in future it would deal only with Brent Council rather than directly with the steering group.

The organizational structure and management of the project also came under criticism. There had never been formal agreement on the authority relationships between various key parties: project co-ordinator, coordinators, their assistants, steering group, HPCC, and especially those assistants to co-ordinators who were members of HPCC. There was an informal agreement of some form of collective management, but this was never formalized. The role of the chairman of the steering group was further confused because he was also the chairman of the HPCC, was not employed by the project but spent considerable time at the project. The project co-ordinator left the project in May and his post was formally taken over by his assistant pending the outcome of the negotiations.

In January 1985 Brent Council's link officer proposed that a review of project management be undertaken, a key element of which was that the steering group appoint someone as overall manager to whom all staff were ultimately responsible, who would implement steering-group decisions. This, it was argued, would enable the steering group to concentrate on policy matters. By now most of the original co-ordinators had left or were due to leave soon. The steering group agreed to the link officer's proposals, and the details of these were accepted by Brent Council in April 1985, as part of the process of reconstructing the funding package. The report indicated that the project would have a hierarchical rather than a co-operative structure, with the creation of a project- manager post and the development of a senior management team reporting to the Manager. The posts which were to replace the co-ordinators who had left or were leaving were in future to carry salaries at about 10 per cent below those which the co-ordinators had been paid. The active membership of the steering group became less as the negotiations continued. At first some members wanted to engage in high- profile publicity about the threat to funding, particularly by arousing local interest and support which had waned. Those were mainly involved in the detailed negotiations preferred to continue to try to work with the funding agencies. Increasingly this latter group became the de facto management, especially as they were also the key members of the HPCC Committee. In fact, they had earlier closed down the small youth centre (The Annexe) in which HPCC had started, because they wished to overcome the problem of drug-taking about which local police had complained. Apart from the Bus Garage Project, HPCC had no significant activities. Yet in all the publicity emerging from the project, and in all the descriptions of the project's progress presented to the funding agencies, the language of 'community initiative' was utilized. By now this was rhetoric, as the project took on the characteristics of a component of the local-authority bureaucracy.

Charlton 1: From participative organization to chair's action

The Charlton Training Centre was established by GLC funding on the site of a former MSC Skills Centre retraining unemployed adults. After MSC announced the planned closure in 1982, Greenwich Employment Resource Unit (GERU), a local voluntary-sector body, persuaded the local council, London Borough of Greenwich, and the GLC to call a meeting of interested parties in the community to examine issues arising from the loss of local training facilities. At that meeting it was agreed to form the Charlton Training Consortium to develop alternative provision. The consortium developed over the next two years a set of proposals leading to the GLC's providing funding for the consortium's reopening the site as the Charlton Training Centre. At first the consortium had been concerned to examine what kind of training arrangements might be appropriate for the local community. The GERU representative was also involved in a campaign to improve the opportunities for women to obtain SkillCentre training, especially in nontraditional areas of manual skills. The black (mainly Afro-Caribbean) community groups involved wanted greater training opportunities for black people, especially as they were disproportionately affected by unemployment. There was discussion about establishing a number of smaller training facilities around the local area, rather than reopening the Charlton site. However, by November 1982, the consortium had decided that one major training centre was needed, probably on the Charlton site. GLC representatives had indicated that the GLC would be willing to fund a major adult-training establishment in line with the policy of the controlling Labour party group, elected in 1981 on a radical manifesto. In the absence of any other identifiable source of major funding, the consortium quickly tied itself to a single major project, funded mainly through one agency.

A further main element of the consortium's proposal was that the centre should be managed in a co-operative manner and involve the local community. This emerged in part from the influence of GERU, which was mainly a co-operative development agency, and partly from the policy of GLC which promoted the notion of popular planning, a policy largely developed out of the movement which emerged from the Lucas Aerospace trade unions' alternative corporate plan (e.g. see Wainwright and Elliott 1982). By March 1983 the consortium had agreed a constitution which stated among its objectives: 'To agree a democratic management structure for the Charlton Skills Centre which ensures full participation by all those concerned with the operation of the Centre.'

The absence of a formal constitution resulted in GLC Legal Department's objecting to an application for funding for outreach workers to examine how the centre could meet specific needs in the local community. A company limited by guarantee was established with three members of the consortium as the original members and directors. Most other members then also became members of the company, by providing the notional 1 guarantee. Greenwich Council decided not to join on the advice of the Council's solicitor. By now the original representative of Greenwich Council had left, and his successor was instructed to withdraw from the consortium.

The consortium agreed that on a day-to-day basis the centre should be managed by four coordinators, with different areas of responsibilities, but working as a team. Other staff would report as appropriate to one or other of the co-ordinators. In response to the GERU representative's proposal that a policy of pay parity should be examined in line with the general philosophy, the consortium decided that this was something 'they might like to see happen but it was impractical'.

During 1983 attendance at consortium meetings declined, and the detailed work was being undertaken by only a few members, with the work mainly focused on the technicalities of the funding. The application was agreed in principle by the GLC's Greater London Training Board, and the link officer from the Training Board's Support Unit was the GLC's representative on the Consortium. The first 'permanent' staff were appointed in April 1984, and problems of management of the centre were soon being articulated, in particular that the consortium was operating line management under the guise of community participation. A paper from the GERU representative was accepted, by which the consortium agreed to develop a structure whereby the consortium would become 'part of a radical new management structure attempting to operate collective ways of working, and worker participation in management of a large institution, and in implementing some of the ideas of popular planning.' It was agreed that centre co-ordinators would be ex-officio members of the board of directors, that staff would elect two representatives who would be board members, and that any member of staff could attend board meetings as an observer. It was also agreed to set up nine sub-groups which would be the basis for overseeing the work of the centre co-ordinators.

By September 1984 the staff were articulating complaints about the way the board was managing the centre. They complained particularly that they had to justify everything they asked for, no matter how trivial, made recommendations in sub-groups which did not get on to the board's meetings' agendas and did not know how much power was vested at each level of structure. The meeting with the board which they called had little outcome, apart from ratifying that the staff representatives were voting members of the board. Despite these problems, the centre was being publicized by the GLC as a major initiative, an 'exemplary project', and the major funding application was approved. The first training courses were started in December 1984, but the staff continued to experience practical difficulties and the formal procedures for handling day-to-day matters remained confused.

In April 1985 the board reviewed again the management structure to clarify~ lines of responsibility and authority and established three groups of staff, each responsible to a designated co-ordinator. The place of the Women's Unit was left undecided. The matter had been raised by the trainee support Co-ordinator, whose proposals were in the main formally accepted. However, she left shortly afterwards.

In June the chair appointed an administrative worker as personnel officer. The chair was abroad when the board met next. Staff representatives objected that the equal-opportunities procedures had been breached, and the meeting decided that the appointment was invalid. At the subsequent meeting the chair defended her decision on the grounds that, as chair, she had responsibility to ensure that the centre ran smoothly. Because she was about to go on her trip, she had decided to take 'chair's action'. The voting on the matter was split and the issue was not raised again.

Immediately prior to this meeting the chair, vice-chair, secretary, and GLC link officer held a meeting, later referred to as an 'officers' meeting'. Other members of the board, including staff representatives and co-ordinators who arrived for the board meeting were asked to wait outside the room until this prior meeting was ended. When, during the board meeting, one of these officers had complained that staff tended to regard the board as consisting only of the officers, a staff representative responded that by their actions the officers had 'made it crystal clear that there is a division'.

Problems over financial and administrative issues continued, and the finance/administrative co-ordinator was dismissed. No staff representative was present for the board meeting at which he was dismissed, and the one trainee representative was asked to leave the meeting since it concerned a staff matter. The training co-ordinator, the only other coordinator was also absent. The treasurer was appointed to work at the centre, for an honorarium, to deal with financial matters. A member of the education team (also a staff representative) was appointed as acting administrative co-ordinator.

As these events unfolded many other key staff had left, including the women's unit co-ordinator and the co-operative education worker. A number of planned courses did not start, and the Women's Unit ceased activity pending a review of its role and activities. No disabled trainees were recruited, partly because, it was stated, of the problems of building alterations. At a meeting called by the chair of the Greater London Training Board to which all staff and trainees were invited, he declared that GLC supported the centre, was concerned to try to ensure that it continued after abolition of the GLC and invited views of those present on how to proceed. Although, some members of the staff raised complaints about the move away from the collaborative structure originally planned, there was no coherent and co-ordinated opposition to the existing structure. The GLC later agreed to fund the centre until August 1986, i.e. after the abolition of the GLC. The centre failed to obtain the funding to continue after August and so closed.

Supporting radical organization: the need for participative codes and practices and supporting structures

This final section is concerned with providing a first approach to the problem of combating slippage in organizational goals and discussing the potential role of explicit codes and procedures in modifying this situation. Although, in the main, the approach taken in this chapter is radical structuralist in orientation, that is to say, the position is taken that there are dominant power structures and that these determine the form and direction of other activity, our analysis is that such control is never complete. Because control is never complete, we see the possibility for radical organizations to strategize their links to one another, and for the formation of a strategized network of radical organizations and support agencies. The naive assumption of organizational autonomy can have no place in any theory or practice of radical organizational formation; the delineation of strong boundaries, i.e. purely local initiative, around any particular radical organization is liable to lead to its failure. Looking towards the industrial-democracy literature, a good example is given by the developments which have taken place at Mondragon in the Basque province of Spain (Oakeshott 1979).

Given such structural constraints, it is easy to be pessimistic about the possibilities and prospects for the development of radical organization. Rather than end in total pessimism, we would like to offer some suggestions, arising out of our analysis, as to how attempts at radical organizing by disadvantaged groups might be better supported.

First, we suggest that attempts be made to overcome the fragmentation of such efforts, and the experiences gained. Second, in forming the organization, attention should be paid to the establishment of clear codes in those areas which experience shows to be at the centre of the processes of transformation from radical to conventional organizational form. Third, the activities in auditing the organization's performance in the social and political areas which formed the core of founding values should take an equal if not greater place in the explicit monitoring of the organization.

Our first suggestion envisages that greater support should be provided to the founders of the radical organizations in the form of explicit links with others similarly engaged. We have seen how the members of radical groups who attempt to retain founding values typically limit their articulation of dissent because of the need to maintain funding. It is difficult for them to develop a clear perspective of what is happening and to make specific proposals on what action should be taken. If the organization were to involve members of other radical groups similarly engaged there would be a greater likelihood that the subtle processes of transformation would be perceived and that such partial outsiders would be in a position to raise issues in an explicit manner denied to the fully internal membership. The problem experienced would be contextualized, identified as structural in origin rather than being interpreted as individual and therefore culpable failure.

Our second suggestion emphasizes the need to make explicit the founding values of the organization, and to state these in a form in which actual practice can be audited. The fact that organizations continue to be described as radical, even when they more closely resemble conventional rather than radical organizational forms, indicates clearly that founding values are quite easily used as rhetorical instruments. To prevent this, the organizational and social meaning of such statements of founding values needs to be made more explicit and be embodied in the form of codes of practice. These should be based on some consideration of how the organization is likely to operate, so that a form of 'rehearsal' may be undertaken rather than allowing individual, casually arising incidents to dictate policy formation. Such codes should focus on those areas in which significant moves away from founding values may be anticipated. These include the issues of working relationships between staff of the organization, procedures for handling disputes, authority given to certain persons, and the boundaries to this authority, resources required by those assigned responsibility for certain actions particularly in terms of time and practical facilities.

One particular area in which such codes may be of significant value is with regard to the claims to and rights of leadership within the organization. In order to resist the pressures for the 'popular' form of leadership, with its distributed pattern, to move to conventional management-leadership with its focused form, clear limits should be placed upon the time span allowed for the holding of formally recognized leadership positions. These would include positions which typically carry such titles as 'co-ordinator', 'company secretary', and 'treasurer', as well as 'chair'. Interestingly, the Greater London Training Board included such a provision within its general funding criteria but this was not implemented in the case of the Charlton Training Centre.

A further area in which explicit codes of practice are important is in connection with the relationship between the funding agency and its representatives. In order to weaken the subtle, and possibly unintended, influence which the funding agency has in interaction with the radical organization, the possible effects of this influence in transforming the organization should be considered at an early stage. As a carrier of important information between funder and organization, the funder's representative should be subject to agreed disciplines concerning what types of information should be made available to whom, in what circumstances, and in what form.

The third suggestion is that the monitoring process should include some form of 'social auditing' (Geddes 1988), 50 that the founding values take on a significant role in examining the degree to which the organization is succeeding. This would include an examination using socio-political criteria such as the rate of participation by particular social groups, degree of popular support both within and outside the organization, relative dispersion of power and authority, and the extent to which energy and enthusiasm are harnessed for collective benefit. The technical and administrative monitoring required by the funder should be placed alongside or within this social-auditing frame, to ensure that the former does not tend to marginalize and discount the latter. Moreover, such social auditing should take into account the tendency for organizational transformation over time and so should be undertaken in a manner which shows the history of the organization. In this way, movement towards or away from strategic political and social goals can be plotted, making the use of rhetoric to obscure transformation more difficult. The recontextualization of organizational experience has utility as an instrument for learning as well as an instrument of auditing (Moore 1988).

To summarize, our concern in this chapter has been with the organizational transformation of radical institutions into conventional forms rather than with the more simplistic question of organizational success or failure. We have indicated the structural basis on which such transformation takes place and have drawn attention to a number of dilemmas confronting radical agencies in their attempts to retain their original values. In the cases analysed here, our title 'Radical beginnings, conventional ends' has a definite applicability. A more symmetric outcome for radical organizational performance remains unlikely whilst radical initiatives remain at the level of localized, untheorized, isolated experiments. Radical beginnings require maintenance by radical support and auditing agencies to achieve the prospect of radical ends.


Banfield, P. and Hague, D. (1990) 'The Manor Employment Project' in Poole, M. and Jenkins, G. (eds.) New forms of ownership. London: Routledge.

Burrell. G. and Morgan, G. (1979) Sociological paradigms and Organizational Analysis, Aldershot: Gower.

Cain. H. (1986) Working paper, Charlton Training Centre research project, London: Thames Polytechnic.

Child. J.C. (1985) 'Managerial strategies, new technology and the labour process', in Knights, D., Wilmott, H. and Collinson, D. (eds.) Job Redesign, Gower: Aldershot.

Clarricoates, K. (1985) Working paper, Charlton Training Centre research project, London: Thames Polytechnic.

Etzioni. E. (1961) A comparative analysis of Complex Organizations, Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press.

Geddes, M. (1988) 'Social audits and social accounting in the UK: a review', Regional Studies, 22, I: 60-5.

Grieco, M.S. (1987) Keeping It in the Family: Social Networks and Employment Chance, London: Tavistock.

Grieco, M.S., Pickup, L. and Whipp, R. (1989) Gender, Transport and Employment, Aldershot: Gower.

Grieco. M.S. and Holmes, L. (1989) 'Overt funding, buried goals and moral turnover: the organizational transformation of radical experiments', paper presented to the EGOS Colloquium on Organizational Transformation, Berlin, July 1989.

Holmes. L. (1987) 'Management: a radical critique', unpublished MPhil thesis, University of Lancaster.

Hosking, D.M. and Brown, H. (1986) 'Distributed leadership and skilled performance as successful organization in social movements', Human Relations, 39 (1).

Hosking, D.M. and Morley, I. (1988) 'The skills of leadership' in Hunt, J.L. (ed.) Emerging Leadership Vistas, Lexington: Wiley.

Lee, G. and Wrench, J. (1981) In Search of a Skill, London: Commission for Racial Equality.

Mantle. A. (1985) Popular Planning not in Practice, London: Greenwich Employment Resources Unit.

Manwaring, T. (1982) The Extended Internal Labour Market, Berlin: E.I.I.M.

Michels, R. (1915) Political Parties: A Sociological Study of Oligarchical Tendencies in Modern Democracy, translated by Eden and Cedar Paul (1959). New York: Dover.

Moore, R. (1988), personal communication.

Oakeshott, R. (1979) The Case for Worker Co-operatives, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Pettigrew, A. (1979) 'On studying organisational cultures', Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, December.

Wainwright. H. and Elliott, D. (1982) The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism in the Making?. London: Allison and Busby.

The Competence Debate   Graduate Employability    Regeneration   e-skilling and cyberontology
    Live Working Papers    Useful Links     The Odyssey Group     Back to home page