Literary Review

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 task.

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 their relationships.

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

Network Theory

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 2).

Figure 2: Joint Information Bureau Network Structure

Interorganizational Theory

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 preconditions.

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 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, p. 589).
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.” (p. 11)

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 Rank

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 JIBs.

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 Systems Theory


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.

Research Questions

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?



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