Decoding Organization

Title:                      Decoding Organization

Author:                 Christopher Grey

Grey, Christopher (2012). Decoding Organization: Bletchley Park, Codebreaking And Organization Studies. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press

LCCN:    2012000127

D810.C88 G74 2012


  • “How was Bletchley Park made as an organization? How was signals intelligence constructed as a field? What was Bletchley Park’s culture and how was its work co-ordinated? Bletchley Park was not just the home of geniuses such as Alan Turing, it was also the workplace of thousands of other people, mostly women, and their organization was a key component in the cracking of Enigma. Challenging many popular perceptions, this book examines the hitherto unexamined complexities of how 10,000 people were brought together in complete secrecy during World War II to work on ciphers. Unlike most organizational studies, this book decodes, rather than encodes, the processes of organization and examines the structures, cultures and the work itself of Bletchley Park using archive and oral history sources. Organization theorists, intelligence historians and general readers alike will find in this book a challenge to their preconceptions of both Bletchley Park and organizational analysis”– Provided by publisher.
  • “As its title implies, this book has two purposes. One is to explicate the ‘decoding organization’ at Bletchley Park, the place most famous for the breaking of Enigma ciphers in conditions of complete secrecy during the Second World War. The other is, in the process, to develop a certain approach to the analysis of organizations; a way of making sense of, or ‘decoding’, organization which points to a way of reviving organization studies as currently commonly conducted. In this sense it is a contribution to the social science of organizations and will primarily be of interest to academics working in that field. However, it should also have a value to those working in the area of intelligence studies and history, and an appeal to general readers with an interest in Bletchley Park “– Provided by publisher.


  • Machine generated contents note: Introduction: Organization Studies, History and Bletchley Park — Part I. Decoding Structures — The Making of Bletchley Park — The Making of Signals Intelligence at Bletchley Park — Part II. Decoding Cultures — Pillars of Culture at Bletchley Park — Splinters of Culture at Bletchley Park — Part III. Decoding Work — Making Bletchley Park Work — Understanding Bletchley Park’s Work — Conclusion: Reviving Organization Studies — Appendix A: Timeline, 1919-2011 — Appendix B: Table of Interviewees — Appendix C: Brief Profiles of Key Figures — Appendix D: Organization Charts, 1940-46 — Glossary of Terms.


Date Posted:      April 12, 2016

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

Professor Christopher Grey chairs the Organizational Studies Department of Royal Holloway University of London. His main objective in writing Decoding Organization was “to develop a way of conducting organizational studies” (p. 5) and only secondarily to discovering why Bletchley Park (BP), with its unique operating circumstances, was able to function successfully. He recognizes that; given the complexity of many organizations, there is doubt that “what works within one organization can ever be replicated within another.” (p. 21) Thus his title has a double meaning: decoding or understanding BP’s structure in order to decode the underlying organizational theory.

What, then, is the potential takeaway for the intelligence officer? Grey’s discussion of BP’s structure and how it evolved in an ad hoc fashion while accomplishing its mission under great stress is of interest historically and to managers who may have to consider similar situations. Toward this end, Grey evaluates cultural aspects, personnel conflicts, and managerial disputes. But, as he admits, with its emphasis on organizational theory, the “book contains some extremely detailed empirical material” that “may be a confusing swirl of acronym, special terms, events and people.” (p. 39)

For those not schooled in organizational theory, it may be useful to read the conclusions first. Here, Grey explains in greater detail the “decoding BP” metaphor. Also valuable are the appendices, which provide a timeline of major BP events, a list of interviewees, a summary of the roles of key players, and organizational charts that show structural development.

Decoding Organization considers many factors—human trust, leadership, culture, and management styles, as well as organization—that affect intelligence officers in their careers. It is an unusual perspective into the intelligence profession and that itself can be of value.

[1] Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, p. 126). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at

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