In his book ‘Images of Organisation’, Gareth Morgan1 identifies eight organisational metaphors. These comprise:

Organisations as:

  • machines;
  • organisms;
  • brains;
  • cultures;
  • political systems;
  • psychic prisons;
  • flux and transformation;
  • instruments of domination.

These metaphors can help understand the nature of an organisation and the best way to manage change within it. Each type of organisation will respond to change in a different way and business change managers in particular need to be sensitive to these different needs.

In ‘Making Sense of Change Management’, Cameron and Green2 suggest that the most common metaphors are machines, political systems, organisms, and flux and transformation, They then describe how different change models, such as those proposed by Carnall, Lewin and Kotter, can be applied to different metaphors.


  1. Morgan, G (1986), Images of Organisation, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA
  2. Cameron, E and Green, M (2009), Making Sense of Change Management, Kogan Page, London

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18th August 2014Link to Italian translation added

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