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2014/2015  BA-BHAAI1021U  Organizational theory and analysis

English Title
Organizational theory and analysis

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration Summer
Course period Summer
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Course instructor - Kinga Konczey, Corvinus University of Budapest
    Patricia Plackett - MPP
Main academic disciplines
  • Business psychology
  • Management
  • Organization
Last updated on 20-05-2014
Learning objectives
By the end of the course students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate that they have understood the main technical terms, the different ideas and underlying assumptions of the various schools of organisational theory.
  • Apply this cumulative comprehension and knowledge to practical problems in organisations.
  • Develop non-linear thinking, and the skills of abstraction, analysis and reasoning.
  • Creatively conceptualize organisations through narratives.
  • Understand the need for contingency thinking and continuous change within organisations.
  • Recognise, identify and analyse complex organisational problems caused by the organisational structures, strategies, functions, operations, people management, or organisational processes.
  • Understand and explain organisational behaviour from several theoretical standpoints, and make well-grounded choices among theoretical models for description, explanation, and solution for organisational problems.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the difference organizational models by using them for gathering data and analysing organizations comprehensively and also for making recommendations for an existing organization.
Course prerequisites
No formal prerequisites, but background in management-related issues would be valuable and work experience would be a particular advantage.
Prerequisites for registering for the exam
Number of mandatory activities: 1
Compulsory assignments (assessed approved/not approved)
Mandatory Mid-term Assignment: This assignment is a team project that will analyse a specific organisation using the concepts and tools discussed in the course. Teams will present their findings in a presentation (10-15 minutes).
4 hours written exam:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Written sit-in exam
Individual or group exam Individual
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration 4 hours
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer Term
Aids allowed to bring to the exam Limited aids, see the list below and the exam plan/guidelines for further information:
  • Allowed dictionaries
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
If the number of registered candidates for the make-up examination/re-take examination warrants that it may most appropriately be held as an oral examination, the programme office will inform the students that the make-up examination/re-take examination will be held as an oral examination instead.
Course content and structure

Organisationsare everywhere: they take form of business corporations, non-profit agencies, government offices, universities, schools, professional associations, hospitals, restaurants, stores, start-ups, and so on. They largely differ in size, internal structure, tasks, goals and the way they operate. It is common, however, that they all must interact with other organisations and deal with environmental constraints in order to be successful. We experience organisations every day, as we go to school, work, buy food, travel, eat out, or visit a hospital. Although we come into contact with organisations on a daily basis, we probably don’t think about how they function, unless we experience a problem, such as purchasing a faulty product, or not getting the service we expected. This course will focus on the organisation with the aim of developing an understanding of how they work, how to diagnose problems, and how to design effective structures and cultures that allow them to create value, survive and thrive.
We will regard organisational theories as a powerful toolset that can be used to systematically identify and analyse important features of an organisation’s structure, environment, and processes, as well as to perceptively understand how they can be best managed to reach their goals. Most real-life organisational problems are specific to the organisation, the environment and the circumstances and cannot be solved by simple routines. The various organisational theories thus provide unique perspectives or lenses for interpreting different scenarios, and provide guidance in determining how to solve problems or make adaptive changes.
This course is aimed at bridging theory and practice through organisational analysis. We will explore a series of organisational phenomena by discussing cases – both successful and unsuccessful, and will learn to apply different theoretical perspectives in our attempt to provide thorough situational analysis and plausible solutions. There will be a strong emphasis on the open-systems approach, with a focus both on intra-organisational behaviour and on the interaction between organisations and their environments. No single model of an effective organisation will be advocated – no "right answer" that could be applied universally. Rather, we will explore the factors and conditions within and outside organisations that can be controlled to provide the best fit with the dynamic environment and that offer, as a consequence, the greatest opportunity for success. The imperative for organisational learning, continuous adaptation, and change based on new developments will be emphasized.
Since standard linear thinking cannot possibly capture the full range of complex and ambiguous relationships among all the organisational variables, emphasis will be placed on non-linear thinking, and we will draw on the idea of pattern recognition, and Artificial Neural Networks as an approach to map the relationships amongst variables, and learn from the combination of observed data, experiences and theoretical frameworks.
Students in this course can expect to become familiar with a series of real-world organisational phenomena, to learn different theoretical perspectives to understand these phenomena, and to apply the learning to real-life cases. Topics that will be covered in the classes include:

  • Classical organisational theories
  • Systems, organic theories and contingency theory
  • Organisational metaphors, organising narratives
  • Organisational culture
  • Network organisations, headquarter-subsidiary relations,  offshores, outsourcing
  • Organisational problem solving and decision making
  • Organisational control: conflict, power, coalitions, lobbying
  • People in organisations: leading managing, motivating
  • Adjustment to the environment: open systems, resource dependency, organisational ecologies
  • Organisational learning, organisational intelligence, knowledge management, innovation and change.

In addition to the Mandatory Mid-term Assignment that requires student groups to analyse a specific organisation using the concepts and tools from the course and make a presentation of 10-15 minutes to the class on their findings, there is a Preliminary Assignment. It will take the form of a self-administered, self-graded quiz aimed at testing students’ understanding of the fundamental concepts of the course.


Class Topic Reading
Prereading History of Organisational Theory Astleyarticle;  Watson, Ch 1, + Selection of articles (on ‘Learn’)
Class 1 Org Theory in perspective Watson Ch 3,4
Class 2 Focus on task performance, structures Watson Ch 2,7
Class 3 Behavioural system: people in organisations Watson Ch 5, 8, 10
Class 4 Organisational problem solving and decision making Selection of articles (on LEARN)
Class 5 Mid-term Assignment presentations / Control system: conflict, power Watson Ch 6
Class 6 Mid-term Assignment presentations / Control system: coalitions, lobbying Article (TBA)
Class 7 Adjustment to the environment Watson Ch 9, + section from Pfeffer and Salancik
Class 8 Innovation and change; organisational learning Watson Ch 7 + article from Argyris and Senge (on LEARN)
Class 9 Comparing multiple perspectives: Systems perspective / contingency / multiple perspectives Case preparation (TBA)
Class 10 Integrative cases and applications Case preparation (TBA)
Class 11 Comprehensive Review    
Teaching methods
We will take a “negotiated narrative” approach in the classroom: (1) Theories will be introduced through readings and brief, focused lectures. (2) Concepts will be discussed by sharing personal experiences and examples. (3) These narratives will then be complemented by, and compared with, research-based organisational narratives, case studies. In a typical class we will bring together the three elements: reflect on the cases, together with accounts of own experiences and participant observations, recognise the common patterns, and conceptualise them using the theoretical framework. In this way we will create the story behind the stories through finding the links and patterns in the different narratives, and shaping what might be derived from all these elements.
Examples for class activities: Students will create the story of a particular character based on a case study, or their own experiences. Students will be invited to pick characters from different cases and create a conversation or a debate. Students will take up a particular story and develop it to ‘what happens next’ scenarios under various circumstances. Invited guests will share concrete organisational experiences with the class, followed by questions and discussions. Collective learning will emerge through the creative class work while we role play, contrast different scenarios, create stories and consider specific processes that occur. Students will develop a deep appreciation of the topics in question. Through the assignments and other class activities students are provided with a first-hand experience of applying the learning in a real-life setting.
Further Information
Preliminary Assignment: To help students get maximum value from ISUP courses, instructors provide a reading or a small number of readings or video clips to be read or viewed before the start of classes with a related task scheduled for class 3 in order to 'jump-start' the learning process.
Expected literature

Required text:

Tony J. Watson (2006)  Organising and Managing Work; Organisational, managerial and strategic behaviour in theory and practice. Second edition. Prentice Hall.  ISBN-13 978-0-273-70480-5 [450 pages]

Gareth Morgan (2006), Images of Organization.  Sage Publication.  Part III.  Implications for Practice (including Biographic Notes).  Pages 337-421.

Selection of entries from: Derek S. Pugh and David J. Hickson. (2007). Great writers on organisations. - 3rd omnibus ed. Ashgate Publishing Company [Weber, Mintzberg, Handy, Lawrence&Lorsch, Hofstede, Fayol, Taylor, Simon, March, Lindblom, Vroom, Mayo, McGregor, Herzberg, Argyris, Senge, Morgan]

Astley, G & Van deVen, A. (1983). Central perspectives and debates in organisation theory. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28:245-273. Link to article

Vaughan, D. (1999). The Dark Side of Organisations: Mistake, Misconduct and Disaster. Annual Review of Sociology. 25: 271-305.

Recommended readings:

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald R. Salancik  (2003): The external Control of Organisations. A Resource Dependence Perspective. Stanford University Press

Morgan, G. (2006). Images of Organisation. Sage Publication

Jane Magruder Watkins
Bernard J. Mohr Ralph Kelly(2011) Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination, 2nd Edition. Pfeffer.  ISBN: 978-0-470-52797-9

Pfeffer, J. (1997) New Directions for Organization Theory. Problems and Prospects. Oxford University Press

Last updated on 20-05-2014