Challenging Gaia: The Ecology of Organizational Restructuring in a Federal Agency

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Purpose. The purpose of the study was to reinvigorate the theory of organizational ecology and use the metaphorical relationship between themes in ecology as a way to model structures or reorganizations in the federal government, challenging traditional bureaucratic tactics for decisions leading to a reorganization effort. In addition, updated models of the politics–administrative dichotomy were compared to its original construct in order to examine fitness for a modern federal environment. Theoretical Framework. The theoretical framework utilized general systems theory, specifically organizational ecology, niche, environment, and Gaia theory. Methodology. A qualitative phenomenological case study of a federal organization was performed by conducting elite interviews in order to explore and assimilate ecological themes to the lived experiences of restructuring or reorganizations by 3 senior-level executives in a federal agency. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with each participant in a semistructured style using 7 interview questions. Findings/Conclusions. The participants’ individual approaches to decisions, rationales, perceptions of outcomes, awareness of impacts, use of theories, lessons, and metaphorical assimilations were examined for collective expressions. Their responses revealed 4 themes: ecosystem, bureaucratic environment, cybernetics, and niche. A multidisciplinary metaphorical abstraction was developed using these concepts, and an ecological model for abstract thinking about organizational structures is presented for consideration. The traditional politics–administrative dichotomy was challenged and a new model proposed.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration, Government