Power Failure in Management Circuits

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

In “Power Failure in Management Circuits”, Kanter thought that power is necessary existing in organizations for productive power brings accomplishment. Power is the access to resources and information and to direct/use them with support and approval.

Power brings effectiveness, which is derived from two capacities: 1) access to resources, information, and support necessary to carry out a task; and 2) ability to get cooperation in doing what is necessary. Briefly, power creates effectiveness in the way of allocating resources and directing.

Organizational sources of power consist of three lines: 1) lines of supply, 2) lines of information and 3) lines of support. Power is necessary in an organization. It is easier for managers to accomplish more when they are in powerful situations. The productive power has to do with connections in job activities and political alliances.

Karter identifies three groups of positions of powerlessness: 1) first-line supervisors, 2) staff professionals, and 3) top executives.

  1. First-line supervisors are “people in the middle,” who are between workers and higher managers. They are at a virtual dead end in their careers. It is always hard/ impossible to go to the top in their careers. Furthermore, supervisors are forced to administer programs or explain policies that they have no had in shaping. They are playing the role more like of coordinators.
  2. Staff specialists are treated as organizational resources. The managers grow and develop these resources rather than pass on power to them. In addition, their overloaded works constrain them to gain power.
  3. Similarly, lack of supplies, information and support also make the top executives powerlessness.

Different from Michels’ point of the end of oligarchy in an organization, Karter thought that organizational power can grow by being shared.

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