Purpose of This Paper

Innovation and involvement have come to be ascribed an almost mystical potency for the task of bringing more relevant services and more human relationships to clients of service organizations. Many descriptive

and hortatory articles have appeared in the social welfare and health literature concerning the virtues of contemporary organizations exhibiting these characteristics, but little in the way of hard thinking about their real implications to service organizations has been done. The majority of the articles are reprises of proposals, or accounts of the first year or two of a program, with an emphasis upon positive prospects or accomplishments and little critical analysis beyond that.

Much of the literature in organization theory suggests that the problems of survival and imperatives placed upon the organization from the outside and inside will force innovative organizations to become more like currently existing organizations which perform the same or similar functions. For example, Rosengren (1970) has conjectured that, despite "scanty" empirical evidence, organizations may possibly follow quite inexorable careers with discernible stages from beginning to end. If such a phenomenon as an "organizational career" (Rosengren, 1967, 1968, 1970; Lefton and Rosengren, 1966; Rosengren and Lefton, 1969) does exist, then it may be necessary to reconsider the placement of so much value on the emphases of innovation and involvement of clients in organizations.

Following will be a brief sketch of the theoretical position taken in this paper, and of various propositions proffered by organization theorists with a view toward considering:

  1. The possible gap between rhetoric and reality about contemporary service organizations.
  2. Some thoughts about service organizations and a line of research implied by this short review.

The thesis of this paper is that contemporary organizations may not be "new" organizations in terms of being novel approaches to the problem of organizing service structures, but rather "new" organizations in terms of age alone.

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