The United Nations as an Effective Organization
The prevalence of inter-governmental organizations is increasing in the world in the present days. Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are formed with objectives such as resolution of conflicts between countries as well as dealing with all forms of intractable conflicts within nations. The United Nations, like other IGOs such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has its roles and objectives aligned to the needs of its different members. The UN works through enhancing cooperation among member countries in order to accomplish unification. From the inception of the UN, it has operated like a conventional organization in order to achieve its purpose. For instance, there are organizational structures that help the UN to formulate a strategic plan that enables the organization to run on a daily basis. According to various authors, the UN is perceived as an effective organization due to the scope of activities and characteristics that link it to organizational effectiveness.
The concept of organizational effectiveness is a subject that has been the focus of many studies, particularly where determining organizational performance and other features are highlighted. Henry (2011) for instance, claims that organizational effectiveness is a result of strong human resource management principles and organizational culture. Other authors have also cited measures taken by different organizations to achieve effectiveness in their operations. This brings out the perception that while many scholars understand the need for effectiveness in an organization, most of those scholars are yet to clearly understand the expanse of organizational effectiveness. As such, many studies discuss the concepts involved in organizational effectiveness without clearly stating what they intend to mean by organizational effectiveness. The result of this lack of lucidity in the description of organizational effectiveness makes it challenging to clearly explain whether an organization is effective or not.
The United Nations, like other organizations, has not been clearly described as an effective organization. However, there are several studies that discuss the precepts of the UN as an organization. The question therefore remains to provide the justification for the belief that the UN is an effective organization. In the ensuing research, the key objective is to determine whether the UN is an effective organization. To achieve this objective, the paper set out to determine various features associated with effective organizations based on a review of existing literatures. From this point of view, the UN will also be analyzed to determine its key organizational features. From the analyses conducted on the two concepts, a conclusion was drawn as to the extent of the UN effectiveness as an organization. To achieve the study objectives, the research was conducted with the following questions in mind:
- What are the characteristics associated with effective organizations?
- What are the features that set the UN apart as an organization?
- Is the UN an effective organization?
In order to answer these questions satisfactorily, the paper is sectioned into three major parts. The first two questioned have been answered directly through the literature reviews. On the other hand, the last question depends on the deductions made from the literature review and is elucidated in the discussion section of the paper. The conclusion provides a summary of the entire paper with a conclusion on its effectiveness in achieving the objectives of the study.
Various features are linked to effectiveness in organizations. One of the most prevalent features is that of knowledge management. In order to determine if an organization can be characterized as effective, it is imperative that the operations of the organization, its cultures and organizational structures be put into consideration and compared to those associated with effective organizations. In the UN for instance, other features that have to be evaluated include human resource management practices, accountability practices and the approaches taken to improve organizational effectiveness. Ashraf and Kadir define organizational effectiveness as the ability to gain access to and to absorb resources and to use those resources for the achievement of organizational goals (2012). For any organization to be described as effective, Ashraf and Kadir assert that the organization has to coordinate all its functions. An organization that has no cooperation between its functions is set up for inevitable failure.
Characteristics of Effective Organizations
According to a study conducted by Henry (2011), organizational effectiveness is linked to effective performance in human resources development. Through human resource practices such as equitable hiring principles, training and effective placement all work towards organizational effectiveness. From the findings of Mott (1972), effective organizations are also logical and rational in their operations. Logical and rational operations involve consideration of all factual information in any of the management functions of the organization. Through the planning, organizing, leading and controlling functions, rational decision making is a prerequisite for effectiveness both in management and in the organization as a whole. Tohidi (2011) opines that critical thinking and rational decision making are the key drivers of organizational knowledge management hence are necessary for effectiveness to be achieved. From the arguments developed by Mott and Tohidi, it can thus be deduced that rationality is a crucial feature of effective organizations.
Knowledge management is another crucial feature described by Steiger et al (2014) as being part of effectiveness in organizational effectiveness. In regards to this, Steiger et al assert that organizational knowledge management together with strategic planning are the core drivers of organizational performance. Knowledge management, from the perspective discussed by Steiger et al, knowledge management in an organization entails development of an organizational culture that advocates for structures and information filtering for knowledge management purposes. Henry (2011) also discusses knowledge management as a feature of effective organizations. From the information given by Henry, knowledge management enables organizations to improve in effectiveness due to the availability of information which enhances informed decision making. Other characteristics associated with effectiveness in organizations include: accountability and goal specification.
Mott (1972) opines that effective organizations have well articulated mission and vision statements, which are pursued based on specific measurable goals for the organization. Statements of vision and missions in an organization are the basis for strategic planning which is one of the antecedents of organizational effectiveness. Patton (1987) on the other hand adds that organizational vision and mission can only be achieved once goals are clearly communicated. Not only do effective organizations state their visions and missions, but they also communicate the same to the employees of the organization and other stakeholders. In this way, functions and individuals can then get to align their goals to those of the organization. Goal clarification entails a description of the specific achievable goals of the organization, which can be measured and subsequently evaluated. For all organizational goals to be achieved there needs to be collaboration between different departments in the organization.
Tohidi (2011) also mentions segmentation and collaboration as a key feature of effective organizations. According to the research carried out by Tohidi, organizations that are segmented into different functions tend to be more effective due to high levels of specialization. Mott also adds to this information through the postulation that organizations that indicate high effectiveness are also characterized with cooperation among the different functions in the organization. For instance, in a manufacturing company, collaboration between the marketing, research and development and the production functions is crucial for organizational effectiveness. The argument that functional segmentation and cooperation improves effectiveness in organization is supported by Patton (1987). Patton suggests that in each of the functions of an effective organization, the personnel are trained narrowly within the limits of their job specifications. As such, the levels of specialization are high as people are trained to attend to specific objectives (Chong et al., 2011).
Accountability is also an essential part of organizational effectiveness. From the works of Henry (2011), Ashraf and Kadir (2012) and Rojas (2000), organizational effectiveness is linked to individual responsibility for accountability. These authors argue that in effective organizations, accountability is focused on individual performance and each person is responsible for their needs. There are various approaches that are applied to achieve accountability and effectiveness in various operational areas. For instance, from the description given by Rojas (2000), approaches such as systems resource approach, goal setting approach, strategic constituency approach and internal process approach are often undertaken to ensure that organizational effectiveness is achieved. Ashraf and Kadir define strategic constituency as a process which deals with the impacts that various stakeholders have on the organization. Effectiveness is improved through insistence on maximum benefit from all the organizational stakeholders.
Features of the UN as an Organization
The UN is one of the key inter-governmental organizations in the world today. As other IGOS, the UN is mandated to perform various functions including resolution of conflicts within and between member states (Brahm, 2005). The UN also has a well laid down organizational structure like other IGOs. Ahmed et al (1996) describes the UN mission as creation of a result oriented organization. To achieve this mission, the organization periodically makes recommendations on particular modes of action that can drive it towards the achievement of key organizational goals. In addition to this, specific and measurable goal statements are also prevalent in the UN operations with goals being segmented into various functions. Keohane (1984) asserts that the UN is recognized as a global voice in the possession of comprehensive institution sets. The UN is currently comprised of a series of institutions engaged in the pursuit of different organizational goals. For instance, UNICEF pursues the objectives of assisting children and other discriminated groups of individuals.
The UN engages in different activities in different states. The activities can be described in different types such as political, economic and human rights activities. Political activities majorly involve resolution of conflicts among countries such as Cambodia, North America and the Iran- Iraq conflicts which the organization has been involved in from the historical times (Keohane, 1984). The economic activities on the other hand mostly involve participation in disaster control and reduction practices to prevent economic down turns. As in other organizations, the UN has been reported to experience financial problems such as those that were experienced towards the end of 1989 (Keohane, 1984). Heywood (2013) also creates the impression that the UN is an organization that engages many functions in which there has to be cooperation between the different functions. This organization also comes with the strategic planning in the organization’s operations.
In Ahmed’s work (1996), organizational changes in the UN are recommended to help increase the organization’s strengths and thus enhance its effectiveness. Some of the steps that the UN has highlighted for its continued strife towards greater performance include provision of better services and better value. Better services in this regard refer to flexibility in delivery and the drive to respond to the needs and the priorities of the organization’s member states. With divergent needs across the states, the UN has to operate with advanced levels of flexibility since the organization has to adapt to the needs of all members in order to be recognized as the global voice as Keohane suggests. The organization also works with the objective of providing better value to the member states. Heywood (2013) claims that better value comes with the desire to constantly improve the quality of services offered to the member states.
Provision of better services and higher value cannot come independent of effective management. As such, Ahmed et al also add that the UN has put in place strategies for improved management of the organization. In accordance with the findings of Brahm (2005), the UN focuses on the practice of management and not administration. The managers in the organization have sufficient information, as well as the authority to make decisions. To achieve the objectives of the organization, the managers practice with high levels of flexibility. Other features of the UN such as resource allocation, and identification of the needs of the member states. The UN practices accountability and high levels of transparency in the allocation of resources to the different stakeholders in the organization. According to the report of Keohane (1984), the UN also focuses on the needs of the member states by spending time in results oriented practices rather than on bureaucratic procedures which result in time wastage. This enables the UN to offer world class services, to engage all the staff in decision making processes and to ensure fair treatment of employees across the globe. The clear impact of this has been sustainable employee motivation and influential leadership which makes the UN one of the employers of choice in the world today (Ahmed, et al., 1996).
From the descriptions given by different authors on the characteristics of the UN as an organization, it is possible to determine whether the UN is an effective organization or not. The ensuing discussion provides the details of this further question. From the study carried out by Tohidi (2011), the provision of matching rewards, motivation of employees and provision of training are some of the human resources related concepts that are linked with organizational effectiveness. Similarly, the findings obtained from various studies on the United Nations indicate that through the effective training, matching remuneration and friendly work environment offered by the organization, it has come to be recognized as an employer of choice in the world today. From the human resources perspective, it can be concluded therefore, that the UN is an effective organization.
Apart from this, the findings presented by other authors such as Mott (1972) assert that accountability is a key feature of organizations that portray effectiveness. This particular feature is also shown to be part of the characteristics of the UN. From the UN characteristics, accountability and transparency are associated with resource allocation. The UN carries out accountable procurement and resource allocation practices and intends, through its strategic development plans to continue improving the accountability practices it applies. This characterizes the UN exceptionally in terms of organizational effectiveness. The allocation of resources needs to rely on the identified needs of member states. As effective organizations have well laid down methods of problem solving, so does the UN. As an IGO, the UN understands the needs of the members and thus bases its resource allocations on these needs and on the procedures that produce results and eliminate bureaucracy (Ortiz et al., 2004). An intensive analysis of this description brings out the impression that the UN has specific methods for problem solving as it is a feature of effective organizations.
Another feature that corresponds to that of an effective organization is the aspect of better management. While Steiger et al (2014) indicate that knowledge management is a crucial part of organizational effectiveness; Ahmed et al (1996) mention informed decision making as a key feature of the UN. In line with this, informed decision making can only come about as a result of effective knowledge management in an organization. The knowledge management process that is applied in effective organizations involves acquisition of new knowledge, retention of existing knowledge and distribution of the knowledge among the organizational stakeholders. From this point of view, sufficient information in an organization can only come through effective knowledge management practices. This builds the argument that the UN shares this particular feature with other effective organizations. This enhances the ability of an organization to achieve its goals.
As previously discussed, organizational goals are anchored on organizational vision and mission statements. From the mission and vision statements, an organization can plan its future by clearly articulating the specific goals of an organization. At the UN, the organizational goals are well indicated through their periodic reviews such as the vision 2050 health plans among others. It is the goals that have been stipulated that guide the organization towards the achievement of its vision and mission statements. This gives the ingrained impression that the UN is an effective organization. Other features of the UN such as segmentation into different functions, rationality and specific training of the employees in different section can all be connected to organizational effectiveness in the UN.
The UN, like other inter-governmental organizations operates based on a number of conditions. Although many studies have focused on the UN as an inter-governmental organization, the exploration of the subject of organizational effectiveness in the UN has not been satisfactorily explored. However, from the findings of this study, it is observable that key organizational features such as effective knowledge management, rationality and logic in decision making, segmentation into different functions and accountability all correspond with characteristics associated with effective organizations. It is thus clear that from the indications given by the results, the UN is an effective organization. It is therefore expected that such an organization has to be one of the choicest employers in the world in contemporary times.
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