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The Limitations of Subjective Models

15 January, 2016 - 09:23
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Subjective models are prescriptive approaches in that they reflect beliefs about the nature of organizations. They can be regarded as “anti-theories” in that they emerged as a reaction to the perceived limitations of the formal models. Although subjective models introduce several important concepts into the theory of educational management, they have four significant weaknesses, which serve to limit their validity:

  1. Subjective models are strongly normative in that they reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their sup-porters. Willower (1980) goes further to describe them as “ideological.” “[Phenomenological] perspectives feature major ideological components and their partisans tend to be true believers when promulgating their positions rather than offering them for critical examination and test” (p. 7).
  2. Subjective models comprise a series of principles rather than a coherent body of theory: “Greenfield sets out to destroy the central principles of conventional theory but consistently rejects the idea of proposing a precisely formulated alternative” (Hughes & Bush, 1991, p. 241).
  3. Subjective models seem to assume the existence of an organization within which individual behaviour and interpretation occur but there is no clear indication of the nature of the organization. Organizations are perceived to be nothing more than a product of the meanings of their participants. In emphasizing the interpretations of individuals, subjective theorists neglect the institutions within which individuals behave, interact and derive meanings.
  4. Subjective theorists imply that meanings are so individual that there may be as many interpretations as people. In practice, though, these meanings tend to cluster into patterns, which do enable participants and observers to make valid generalizations about organizations. “By focussing exclusively on the `individual' as a theoretical . . . entity, [Greenfield] precludes analyses of collective enterprises. Social phenomena cannot be reduced solely to `the individual”' (Ryan, 1988, p. 69-70).
  5. Subjective models they provide few guidelines for managerial action. Leaders are expected to acknowledge the individual meanings placed on events by members of organizations. This stance is much less secure than the precepts of the formal model.