The study of organizations in the social sciences is analogous
to the physical sciences. Organizations are like your body’s
circulatory system. The heart, veins, and arteries make up the
circulatory system. Networks and groups accomplishing a goal form
an organizational system. The corporate world is made up of many
systems called networks or organizations. The U.S. Armed Forces
is a whole entity, a system. The military consists of subsystems,
such as the individual services, the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines
and Coast Guard. Within each of these subsystems are smaller systems--
those commands or units that make up a service. These subsystems
must work together, interact, coordinate and cooperate to meet
their individual service missions and goals.
At times, different elements of the services combine to form other
subsystems or joint operations. Once such example is when public
affairs professionals from the different services, compile Joint
Information Bureaus (JIB). JIBs are compiled of members from different
services and agencies. The JIBs must coordinate amongst themselves
as well as with outside agencies. “The mission of joint
public affairs (PA) is to expedite the flow of accurate and timely
information about the activities of US joint forces to the public
and internal offices” (Joint Publication, 1997, 3-61, p.
v). Combing joint operations involves coordination and cooperation.
Coordination is a key element in organizations and systems and
emphasizes strategies using joint decision making and joint action
making. This process is not always as smooth as it implies. From
a communication perspective, organizations exist “in a world
of colliding events, forces or contradictory values competing
with each other for domination and control. These oppositions
may be internal to an organization because of several conflicting
goals or outside interest groups” (Poole, Van de Ven, Dooley,
& Holmes, 2000, p. 62). Each element of the JIB, as a separate
entity, has differentiated and specialized functions and operate
under their own environments and cultures. Combined, their coordination
is intended to meet one mission or goal, but coordination is hampered
as each element brings different perspectives on how to accomplish
The military as an organization can be divided into systems and
subsystems; JIBs are one such subsystem of the military. This
literature review looks at the theoretical background of organizational
systems, as they are applied to JIBs.
Organizational Systems Theory
As in many scholarly and scientific approaches, there are an infinite
number of theories in the study of communications. Systems theory
is the most general theoretical approach to communications. A
system is comprised of four elements: 1) objects (the parts, elements
or variables of the system), 2) attributes (the qualities or properties
of the system), 3) internal relationships, 4) an environment (Littlejohn,
1996). It is this synthesis of parts, qualities, relationships
and environments that make up an organization.
Systems theory attempts to understand human behavior within the
context of its systems. A system, for example the military, can
be broken up into suprasystems, such as the services and agencies
which comprise the Armed Forces, which in turn are separated into
subsystems, the individual units and commands within each of the
services. Systems theory is interested in wholes and parts and
The principles of systems theory are: wholeness (in which two
or more subsystems are interrelated, 2) sharing (subsystems are
tied together through shared subparts), 3) synergy (sum of the
system is greater than its parts), 4) entropy (without new energy
the system will run out), 5) self-regulation (systems use feedback
to regulate, correct and improve system functioning), 6) differentiation
(subsystems continue to exist because they provide some function),
7) integration (subsystems are organized in the most effective
ways as to promote synergy and efficiency) and, 8) equifinality
(subsystems start at different places, but end up at the same
destination or final output) (Zuckerman, lecture notes, June 27,
2002). Systems theory emphasizes communication as an integrated
process, not an isolated event.
Systems theory is interested in transformation in organizations.
Transformations are due to the relationships between subsystems.
Relationships cause interactions. These interactions, in turn,
cause changes to the system by adapting to the organizational
environment. Carmack (2000) says two approaches lead to change
in the context of systems: 1) “no single thing can change
without influencing every part of the system in which it belongs,
and 2) change any single part of a system impacts other parts”
(p.2). Change is the catalyst which leads an organization to transformation.
This interdependence on change implies a dependence on relationships
with the organization.
Organizations are open systems. This view emphasizes that organizations
are not enclosed collectives, but open containers, influenced
by their environments. Open systems are seen as “psychological,
social and symbolic constructions through which individuals respond
to their environments” (Taylor, Flanagin, Cheney, &
Seibold, 1999, p. 2). This dynamic perspective on organizations
stressed interconnectedness and the importance of the external
environment. Organizations function by balancing the changing
demands of the environment with control mechanisms that guard
against potentially overwhelming uncertainty (Taylor et al., 1999).
Organizational members create their environments through enactment
or ongoing interaction (Weick, 1969). These environments are framed
within a network of relationships (Monge & Contractor, 1998).
As more networks are created and new relationships are established,
organizations become more complex and uncertain. These complexities
and uncertainties fill organizations with opportunities, and at
the same time are less forgiving of error (Sofaer & Myrtle,
1991). The information age has spurred new ways to disseminate
information. These technological advancements are those increased
opportunities while at the same time adding complexities to systems.
Systems theory explains what comprises a system such as a JIB:
the relationships of a subsystem to the suprasystem within an
organization or system. Systems theories offer a very valuable
perspective on the interconnectedness of JIBs. It allows us to
more carefully examine the individual services perception on how
to interpret “The Doctrine for Public Affairs in Joint Operations”
( Joint Publication 3-61,1997).
One of the most important resources in an organization, such as
a JIB, is information. Network theory explains the distribution
of information in organizations and networks. JIBs, as many systems,
rely on the reception, utilization and transmission of information.
Systems theory does not explain how the organization receives,
utilizes and transmits information. Network theory helps fill
this void by explaining the relationship between networks and
information sharing (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Systems Theory As It Applies to JIBs
Information theory is systems meta-theory. Information theory
stresses efficiency in creating, transmitting and receiving messages.
Using information theory as a base, a systems perspective is applied
to networks. Network theory, also known as structural-functional
approach (Infante et al., 1997) or structural-functionalism (Heath
& Bryant, 2000), addresses the means by which social reality
is constructed within an organization (Littlejohn, 1996). Monge
and Contractor (1998) explain communication networks as “patterns
of contact between communication partners that are created by
transmitting and exchanging messages through time and space”
(p.1). Network analysis consists of applying a set of relations
to an identified set of entities. “It is common to use work
groups, divisions and entire organizations as the set of entities
and to explore a variety of relations such as ‘collaborates
with,’ ‘subcontracts with,’ and ‘joint
ventures with,’” (Monge & Contractor, 1998, p.2).
Monge and Eisenberg (1987) integrate three traditions of organizational
studies to explain the structural functionalism of networks: 1)
positional tradition (formal structures and roles in an organization),
2) relational (ways relationships develop naturally and the ways
networks emerge), and 3) cultural (the world of the organization
is created by members in stories, rituals and task work). A key
principle of network theory is that information must be distributed
correctly if the organization is to function properly (Heath &
Bryant, 2000). This distribution relies on links. These links
explain the relationship in an organization or network.
JIBs do not exist as a separate entity, but are linked to a larger
system. In turn, these suprasystems are linked to yet another
organization in the hierarchy. It is a chain bound and held together
by goals the individual members achieve to meet.
The JIB network is commanded by the “Deputy Joint Information
Bureau Director” (Joint Publications 3-61, 1997, p. III-9).
The JIB director is responsible to the Joint Task Force (JTF)
Public Affairs Officer (PAO) “for all activities conducted
in support of the media relations mission” (Joint Publications
3-61, 1997, 1997, p. III-9). The Commander of the JIB is of the
same service controlling the operations of the JTF. Under the
commander of the JIB is the “Operations Officer” and
reporting to are individual elements of the JIB: 1) administration,
2) media response, 3) media support, and 4) liaison cells. While
principles and doctrines are laid out for the relationships within
a JIB and its relationship with the media, the individual members
that comprise the JIB are from different services. Different services
have varying degrees of interpretations of the same doctrine.
Herein lays another problem with JIBs – network links.
Network links. Communication relationships utilizing
people, groups or organizations rely on network linkages. “Network
linkages are created when one or more communication relations
are applied to a set of people, groups, or organizations”
(Monge & Contractor, 1998, p.3). “Linkages are typically
seen as the means by which organizations manage their dependencies
on resources necessary for organizational survival” (Miller,
Scott, Stage, & Birkholt, 1995, p. 681). Monge and Contractor
(1998) described a two-dimensional approach to interorganizational
linkages based on linkage content and linkage level. The level
dimension has three forms of exchange: 1) institutional linkage
(when information or materials are exchanged between organizations
without the involvement of specific organizational roles or personalities),
2) representative linkage (occurs when a role occupant who officially
represents an organization within the system has contact with
a representative of another organization) and, 3) personal linkage
(occurs when individuals exchange information, but in a nonrepresentative
or private capacity) (Monge & Contractor, 1998). These descriptions
outline the means in which organizations transmit and receive
messages which is critical to the flow of information. Information
is one of the key elements in any organization.
Coordination and cooperation are at the gist of the problems in
JIBs. “Joint” implies coordination --to bring into
a common action. Network theory does not focus on coordinated,
cooperative relationships while interorganizational theory does.
From network theory spawned interorganizational theory (see Figure
Figure 2: Joint Information Bureau Network Structure
The multiple dyadic relationships between one organization and
other organizations, was the initial focus of interorganizational
theory. The focus then shifted to the behavior of loosely coupled
multi-member organizations within its task environment. With further
evolution, interorganizational theory examines the population
of organizations in an environment. This population is now called
a network. This perspective allows one to identify their place
in the network. It can reveal both the barriers to strategic initiatives
and the opportunities to activate them (Sofaer & Myrtle, 1991).
Interorganizational analysis is concerned with building a smooth,
operating division of labor among agencies. Coordination is the
ultimate variable guiding research. “The impetus for interorganizational
analysis seems to come mainly out of a perceived need to reduce
duplication and overlap of services, to reduce conflicts and tensions
between agencies and to enhance the articulation of services”
(Rogers & Whetten, 1982, p. 141). “Firms are embedded
in networks of cooperative relationships that influence the flow
of resources among them” (Gnyawali & Madhavan, 2001,
p. 431). Van de Ven and Walker (1984) perceived the need for resources
to achieve organizational goals is the most important factor to
stimulate interoganizational coordination. “Through cooperative
relationships, firms work together to collectively enhance performance
by sharing resources and committing to common task goals in some
domain. At the same time, partners also compete by taking independent
actions in other domains to improve their own performance”
(Gnyawali & Madhavean, 2001, p. 433). “The (dis)advantages
of an individual firm are often linked to the (dis)advantages
of the network of relationships in which the firm is embedded”
(Dyer & Singh, 1998, p. 660) Dyer and Singh (1998) cite four
potential sources of interorganizational competitive advantages:
1) relation-specific assets, 2) knowledge sharing routines, 3)
complementary resources/capabilities, and 4) effective governance.
The very name Joint Information Bureaus, suggest a joint effort.
Joint implies cooperation and coordination. Unfortunately, these
cooperative efforts are hampered by the diversification of tasks
and different perceptions on how to accomplish those tasks. Coordination
and cooperation is a key of the problems in JIBs.
Interorganizational cooperation and coordination. Interorganizational
relations may be characterized by specific practices of coordinating
boundary crossing activities because of the division of labor,
interrelated differentiation of organizational roles and the high
degree of diversification of tasks. Defined by Wehner and Clases
(2000) as “coordinatedness within and between workplaces,
departments and organizations” (p. 4). Cooperation is a
goal-directed and process-related joint activity (Wehner &
Clases, 2000). The actual social processes and dynamics of cooperation
are related to goal orientation, motivation, trust, competition,
conflict, strategies of failure and situational and organizational
Interorganizational cooperation should not be viewed as a direct
outcome of the anticipated and planned forms of joint activity,
because it is strongly influenced by process related experiences
gained in everyday practice when faced with deviations from those
planned (Wehner & Clases, 2000).
Military members often say “stay in your lane,” which
means, stay within your boundaries. When formed, JIBs create a
new organization, distinctly different from the services that
comprise it, producing new boundaries. In a joint environment
such as JIBs, maintaining service uniqueness conflicts with crossing
Interorganizational boundaries. Interorganizational systems
(IOS) (Gregor & Johnston, 2001) and interorganizational relationships
(IORs) (Miller, Scott, Stage, & Birkholt, 1995) are information
systems that span organizational boundaries. The structure beneath
a sector includes rules setting boundaries upon its operation.
These rules restrict the range of alternatives available to the
sector in regards to its policy and administration. Negotiations
and bargaining occur within the range of available alternatives.
Movement beyond these boundaries would be met with various control
measures. At certain stages new rules may become contradictory
to the established ones and contradictory to the entire sector
(Rogers & Whetten, 1982). Boundaries “aid in the delineation
of lines that separate yet join, create linkages yet establish
borders, and frame identities that are both unique and dependent
on others“ (Petronio, Ellemers, Giles, & Gallois, 1998,
Information environments function within organizational boundaries
and emphasize boundary spanning through message routing and summarizing.
Boundary spanning brings information across groups. Message routing
and summarizing reduces the information and may keep boundaries
restricted (Petronio et al., 1998). Coupland, Weimann & Giles
(1991) proposed miscommunication always involved boundary negotiation.
Miscommunication is an indicator of tension in negotiating boundaries
as they emerge and change in interaction. Groups respond to boundary
demands dependent on their abilities and motivations to meet the
demands. (Petronio et al., 1998).
A JIB represents the forces that have joined together in joint
operations to discuss the common effort and represent the roles
of the individual members “An information bureau is a single
point of interface between the military and news media representatives”
(Joint Publications 3-61, 1997, p. III-8). “The mission
of the joint public affairs (PA) is to expedite the flow of accurate
and timely information” (Joint Publication 3-61, 1997, p.
v). Many times the individual services’ interpretations
of how and when to release information causes tensions between
the military and civilian media representatives. Another aspect
of the chain of command or boundaries that govern military networks,
is as Aukofer and Lawernce (1995) outline:
“Secrecy and surprise were paramount
in the division commander’s minds,” said Army Col.
William L. Mulvey, who commanded the U.S. forces’ Joint
Information Bureau in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia during the war. “If
Gen. [John] Telelli of the 1st Cav [alry] did not want a pool
reporter, then his word was supreme. He didn’t get a pool
reporter. He was a two-star general, and I know to salute.”
On the surface, JIBs may appear to be organized. In reality,
the services display individualistic traits counter to the group
traits. Failure to adopt the traits of the group is a systematic
trait of interorganizational nonconformity.
Interorganizational nonconformity. Some of what is the
bright side of organizations can simultaneously be a dark side.
In addressing the dark side of organizations, Vaughan (1999) outlines
“three types of routine nonconformity with adverse outcomes
that harm the public: mistake, misconduct, and disaster produced
in and by organizations” (p. 271). These are systematically
produced by the interconnection between environment, organizations,
cognition, and choice. Merton (as cited in Vaughan, 1999) observed
that any system of action inevitably generates consequences that
run counter to its objectives. Some types of organizational deviance
result from coincidence, synchronicity, or chance. Organizational
deviance is a routine by-product of the characteristics of the
system itself (Vaughan, 1999).
Communication never takes place in a vacuum and is rarely an isolated
event. JIBs also do not work in vacuums or isolated events. Their
decisions and actions affect other networks, and in turn, these
decisions affect other organizations. The military, while evolved
from American society, adapted American culture to make a separate
and distinct culture all their own. Within the military, the services
have made cultures unique to themselves. Interorganizational culturalism
serves to explain these differences and how problems emerge due
to communication across inter-cultural boundaries.
Interorganizational culturalism. Traditionally, intercultural
communication is related to national culture; in recent years
it has expanded to include organizational culture (Constantinides,
St. Amant, & Kampf, 2001). Just as there are many ways to
define communications, scholars have many disagreements about
how to define culture in organizations. O’Reilly and Chatman
(1996) define culture as “a system of shared values that
define what is important and norms that define appropriate attitudes
and behaviors for organizational members -- how to feel and behave”
(p. 121). Different cultures have different values and beliefs
helping members rank what is important. These rankings influence
how they perceive the function of the organization and the individuals
within it. Different cultures might have different communication
expectations in similar organizational settings. Different cultures
can have different expectations regarding the same document.
Constantinides et al., (2001) defined two treatments of culture:
1) as a variable (an organization has a culture) and, 2) as a
root metaphor -- an organization is a culture. Both of these themes
view organizations existing within an environment. Both study
relationships between cultural elements, across and within boundaries.
Corporate culture reflects the standards of a given industry,
yet these norms arise out of a cultural context. Facts might be
culturally neutral, but the way in which they should be presented
can vary from culture to culture. “Failing to recognize
and address these differences... ...can lead to miscommunication
or offense” (Constantinides et al., 2001, p. 38).
Prototype theory explains how and why members of different cultures
can have different expectations within the same communication
context. Individuals unknowingly use the same term to refer to
different ideas (Constantinides et al., 2001). “All speakers
associate a particular idea or “prototype with a given word
and each ideal is comprised of certain characteristics”
(p. 39). Different cultures can have various expectations of how
the same item is defined. Prototype theory expanded to introduce
strategies of convergence and code switching (Constantinides et
al., 2001). Organizations use convergence to change their prototype
expectations so that group conversations become more similar.
Organizations from one culture use code switching by learning
how to use the prototypes preferred by others. Code switching
is recommended, but users are advised to first learn the audience
by looking for meta-patterns of behavior in a given culture and
then determining the historical reason to anticipate prototypes
of a given audience (Constantinides et al., 2001).
In 1993, Adams saw history as a factor in organizational culture
and introduced “metapatterns” to focus on “the
implicit dynamics of organizational life” (p. 140). Recurring
sequences in a relationship cluster into patterns. These patterns
of relationships in organizations are sometimes overt and transparent,
but many patterns “are tacit” called metapatterns
(Adams, 1993). Metapatterns are constructive, benign or dysfunctional.
“They have a contagious quality, and they do not normally
occur under conscious control” (Adams, 1993, p, 141). Patterns
established in previous interactions, do not have to be intentional
to be repeated. The metapattern spreads contagiously. It is not
the specific behavior or interaction that was repeated, but the
underlying pattern the relationship took.
The significance of metapatterns is that organizations have histories.
Organizations are always in the midst of working out their destiny,
and people within them are “embroidering their own sections
of that destiny through all their relationships. ...those relationships
keep bumping into one another... ...spreading the underlying metapatterns
inherent in them throughout an organization” (Adams, 1993,
142). A person is neither the sole, nor fully conscious author
of their behavior. Relationships experienced in the past are likely
to be patterned. Attention to metapatterns can help see human
interaction as a whole.
Weiss (1992) also saw history playing a part in an organization’s
culture. Every culture sees the world according to that culture’s
heritage and history, immediate contexts also shape meanings.
There are four concepts of interculturalism: 1) instability and
equivocality of messages that cross cultures (a message means
something only within specific cultural context), 2) cultural
construction (culture is patterned ways of thinking, feeling and
reacting but is also open and adaptive), 3) cultural heterogeneity
(understanding ourselves among other people), and 4) dialogic
communication and approaches and attitudes that block it (modes
of intercultural communication, problems with the transmission
model of communication, and intercultural misunderstanding and
miscommunication) (Adams, 1992, p. 2-6).
Just as systems theory contends that systems lie within systems,
interculturalism proposes that within each culture exist groups
within groups. The groups are composed of individuals whose attitudes
and actions do not mirror a type but respond to and create a reality
(see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Sample Joint Information Bureau Setup By
The Nesting of Theories to Explain the Problem in JIBs
This literature review nests communication organizational theories
to explain the problem within JIBs. Systems theory explains the
relationships in an organization, addressing how a system is comprised
of suprasystems. Suprasystems, for example, the military, are
in turn, are made of subsystems, or the individual services that
comprise the military. The subsystems and suprasystems compile
an entire system or organization. When JIBs are created, they
form yet another subsystem of the military. Unfortunately, systems
theory itself falls short of explaining fully the problem within
Information is a key element in any organization,
especially JIBs, and is exemplified in the name: Joint Information
Bureaus. Systems theory does not address the flow of information.
Network theory does address this key element and helps to explain
the complexities of the information flow. Yet still, network theory
does not address the full breadth of the problems within JIBs.
Coordination and cooperation are at the gist of the problems in
JIBs. “Joint” implies coordination, which in turn,
means to bring into a common action. Network theory does not focus
on coordinated, cooperative relationships, interorganizational
theory does. From network theory spawned interorganizational theory.
So, the problem in JIBs has been identified and framed within
the theory associated with it, interorganizational theory. But
one more question exists, why? Why are there cooperation and coordination
problems? The answer may lie in an interorganizational meta-theory,
interculturalism. Each service compiling a JIB enters into the
operation with their individual service values and cultures. These
values are not discarded because of the joint environment. Different
cultures assign different meanings which create misunderstandings
and miscommunication. Nested within the problem of JIBs, their
lack of cooperation and coordination, are different cultures.
It is the different cultures and the associated different meanings
that create misunderstanding and miscommunication that are the
heart of the perceived problem (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: JIBs As Explained By Organizational
Culture Defined in JIBs
Culture within JIBs is based on culture within each of the individual
military services. Webster defines culture as “the customary
belief, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious
or social group.” Culture within JIBs can be a daunting
task to define given the complexities that lie within each of
the military services. Those complexities are magnified once different
groups and agencies work together. Each element that comprises
a JIB, comes with their own background, their own standards, and
their own way of doing things and the environment they each operate
under...essentially each has a different culture.
Culture is a product of meaning. As people take on language, they
adopt a culture that gives them a view of the world (Heath &
Bryant, 2000). To define culture in JIBs, this study uses “values”
as the first criteria. Webster defines values as “something
(as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.”
The military services outline their values as customary beliefs
for each of its members to follow and attain.
Vision is the second criteria used to define culture in this study.
The military operates by regulations, directives, instructions,
and customs and courtesies; these are the military’s formal
ways of doing business, their social form. They stem from history
and evolved to meet the changing needs required of the military.
Change is the only constant to be counted on. From lessons of
the past, the military tries to predict the future. These predictions
mold the military’s focus, creating a vision.
Mission is the third criteria for this study of JIB culture. While
there is overlap of social forms between the services, there are
also distinct differences based on the service’s unique
diversification and specialization. The military’s as a
whole ensures American interests are defended, and each element
of the military are segregated to best meet these means. The Army
covers ground warfare, the Navy protects the seas, and the Marines
combine the two previous service requirements into amphibious
operations. The Coast protects our naval assets as well as ensures
the security of homeland coasts and welfare. The Coast Guard is
not an element of the United States Armed Forces unless Congress
ratifies an act of war. Normally, the Coast Guard falls under
the Department of Transportation. The Air Force ensures our skies
are protected. Each service has a different look to coincide with
their area of expertise. Each uses unique equipment. These material
traits coincide with the unique responsibilities required of each
service, their mission.
The fourth criteria this study used to define culture is network.
Network as defined by this literature review is transmitting and
exchanging messages through time and space (Monge & Contractor,
1998). Network is defined by Webster as “an interconnected
or interrelated chain, group or system.” The formal network
in the military is the “chain of command.” The chain
of command gives the different organizations within the military
a means in which messages are exchanged. Each service and organization
within the military lays out a different network for their respective
public affairs communities. While there are similarities, differences
emerge accounting for different means of message exchanges.
RQ1: Do different service interpretations
or adaptations of Joint Publication 3-61 affect how Joint Information
Bureaus operate/interact in a DoD combined operation?
RQ2: Do interservice doctrine and cultural differences
impede communication flow to both internal and external publics?
RQ3: Do historical case studies reveal that the
improper operationalization of JIBs impede the intended use of
a media pool and the reporting of military actions?