Quotations about   organization

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Most of the activities of any bureaucracy are devoted not to the organization’s ostensible goals, but to ensuring that the organization survives: because if they aren’t, the bureaucracy has a life expectancy measured in days before some idiot decision maker decides that if it’s no use to them they can make political hay by destroying it. It’s no consolation that some time later someone will realize that an organization was needed to carry out the original organization’s task, so a replacement is created: you still lost your job and the task went undone. The only sure way forward is to build an agency that looks to its own survival before it looks to its mission statement. Just another example of evolution in action.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score, ch. 16 (2015)
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Added on 1-Aug-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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Don’t agonize, organize.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).
Added on 10-Jul-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-17
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Observe the invincible tendency of the mind to unify. It is a law of our constitution that we should not contemplate things apart without the effort to arrange them in order with known facts and ascribe them to the same law.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1836)
Added on 15-Aug-16 | Last updated 15-Aug-16
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The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.

Gruenert and Whitaker - leader is willing to tolerate - wist_info quote

Other Authors and Sources
Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker, School Culture Rewired, ch. 3 (2015)
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Often misattributed as "Gruenter and Whitaker".
Added on 16-Mar-16 | Last updated 16-Mar-16
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Now when an American has an idea, he directly seeks a second American to share it. If there be three, they elect a president and two secretaries. Given four, they name a keeper of records, and the office is ready for work; five, they convene a general meeting, and the club is fully constituted.

[Or, quand un Américain a une idée, il cherche un second Américain qui la partage. Sont-ils trois, ils élisent un président et deux secrétaires. Quatre, ils nomment un archiviste, et le bureau fonctionne. Cinq, ils se convoquent en assemblée générale, et le club est constitué.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
From the Earth to the Moon, ch. 1 “The Gun Club” (1865)
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Added on 11-Mar-16 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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My life has been largely spent in affairs that required organization. But organization itself, necessary as it is, is never sufficient to win a battle.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Young Republican National Leadership Training School (20 Jan 1960)
Added on 19-Jan-16 | Last updated 19-Jan-16
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Let the Care of one’s business be committed but to one Person; for otherwise, besides Disagreement which may arise when Account is taken, everyone’s Answer is, That he thought others had done it.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #1072 (1731)
Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 21-Dec-15
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The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they’re organized for.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) American writer
Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
Added on 4-Dec-14 | Last updated 4-Dec-14
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Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.

Robert Conquest (b. 1917) Anglo-American historian, diplomat, poet
“Conquest’s Second Law”


Attributed in Kingsley Amis, Memoirs (1991). Also known as "Conquest's Law of Organizations."

Variants:

  • "Every organisation behaves as if it is run by secret agents of its opponents."
  • "The behavior of any organization can best be predicted on the assumption that it is headed by a secret cabal of its enemies."
Added on 13-Aug-14 | Last updated 13-Aug-14
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We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.

Ogburn - reorganization - wist_info quote

Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998) American journalist, author
“Merrill’s Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure,” Harper’s Magazine (Jan 1957)

In his 1959 book, The Marauders, Ogburn rephrased this as: "As a result, I suppose, of high-level changes of mind about how we were to be used, we went through several reorganizations. Perhaps because Americans as a nation have a gift for organizing, we tend to meet any new situation by reorganization, and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress at a mere cost of confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

Sometimes incorrectly cited to Gaius Petronius Arbiter. For more on this quotation, see here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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