Organization Theory Essay

Organization Theory Essay

This is a modern theory of an organization or firm which states that the goals and activities of an organization or firm are the results of its organizational structure. Organization theory challenges the traditional assumption by many organizations of profit maximization by management, which is usually seen as the content to earn just satisfactory profits (Burrell and Morgan 1979; Hatch 2006).

Modern Organization theory explains further that an Organization is a system which, as the attainment of its goal, ‘produces’ an identifiable thing which can be utilized in some way by another system. This is to say that the output of some system is the input of another system. The organization therefore is considered as a subsystem which interchanges over boundaries. Using this concept of input-output, this theory could change the system model from the closed one to an open one. In this sense, the open system becomes dominant in the organization theory and it triggers prosperity to contingency theory and organization strategy theory especially in the early years of 1960s and 70s.

In this sense, we realize that organizations are social entities that are goal-oriented and are designed, deliberately structured and coordinated activity systems and that they are linked to the external environment (Daft, 2004).

In regard to contemporary organizations, it is more appropriate to understand an organization that gives out a better image when perceived as responsible for producing output for another system and thus, enhancing continuity, sustainability and gaining of competitive advantage in the market. Hence we need to talk more of an organization as a series of events or stage than a machine.

The modern perspective focuses mainly on the organization as an independent and an objective entity and takes a positive approach to generate knowledge. A modernist organization theorist focus on how to increase efficiency, effectiveness and other specific indicators of performance through the application of theories related to organizational structure and control. This approach is making many organizations to fully rely on efficiency and its control and this is why there is more emphasis by many organizations in acquiring systems that will ensure that it operates efficiently. It is clear that management technology is derived from organization theory and is usually applied in the sense that it focuses mainly on the practice of management in an ongoing organization (Kast and Rosenzweig 1970). For instance, a multinational company like coca cola has devolved its management to regional levels to ensure efficiency in the management technology in its operations in each region.

The symbolic-interpretive perspective focuses on the organization as a community which is sustained by human relationships and uses a predominantly subjective ontology and an interpretive epistemology. Instead of treating organizations as objects to be measured and analyzed according to the modernist perspective, symbolic-interpretive treats them as an inter-linkage of meanings that are jointly created, appreciated and communicated. Symbolic-interpretive organization theory explores how meanings are created and the realities made sensible to those who participate in sustaining them (Williamson 1975).

This is why many organizations are finding a way to link many of their departments to ensure that they do not work in isolation but to fulfill a common goal set for the whole organization. Some departments like Human Resource, customer care and administration can be noted in every company as a way of ensuring that the organization operates in harmony. For instance, the human resource department puts more emphasis in the recruitment and the development of all the employees and remunerates them according to the dictates of the work and the organizational policy

On the other hand, postmodernism generates healthy skepticism toward any other dominant theory and licenses one and others to try something that is completely different (Bolman and Deal 1997). The postmodern perspective does all this by expanding the focus of theorizing concepts from the organization per se, to how to speak and write about organizations. Thus, one phenomenon that postmodern organization theory addresses is theorizing itself. In this context, it is not how what one may perceive as stable or objective elements of organizations and organization theory will be but the outcomes of linguistic convention and discursive practice. As such, postmodern perspective makes one to be aware that theories are open to revision and invites him/her to ask who supports the theories and why.

Therefore, postmodernism challenges categories of theories, seeking to undermine them by blurring their boundaries and exposing the motivations that produced or maintain them. For instance, a postmodernist would probably argue that in categorizing the organization theories as prehistory, modern, symbolic-interpretive and postmodern, this typology objectifies the organization theory hence theorizing it in ways that reproduce and legitimize seeing the field as constructed of modern, symbolic-interpretive and postmodern perspectives, when other perspectives might be promoted at the same time.

According to Robert Chia in his writing, From Modern to Postmodern Organizational Analysis (2008), he says that the postmodern is variously interpreted as a new ‘paradigm’ of thought. In his paper he argues that what distinguishes the postmodern from the modem is the ‘style of thinking’ which shows the uncritical use of common organizational terms such as ‘organizations’, ‘individuals’, ‘environment’, ‘structure’, and ‘culture’, among others, which refer to attributes within a modernist problematic and the existence of social entities. This is because, he argues, a modernist thought style relies on a ‘strong’ ontology of being which gives privilege to thinking. On the other hand, postmodern thinking, privileges a ‘weak’ ontology of becoming which emphasizes a transient, ephemeral and emergent reality. From this thought style, reality is deemed to be continuously in transformation and hence not presentable in any static sense.

Many organizations have stopped following the normal and frequently used methods of management and therefore they are carrying out their management as per the situation and economy. For instance, during these times of economical crisis, many organizations are trying to find better ways to minimize the expenditure by introducing more efficient mechanisms that will contribute in lowering the operation expenses. For example, the telecommunication firms are introducing automated systems that are working to perform some functions like customer care hence cut costs associated with herring the attendants.

However, postmodern perspectives generate even more trouble to be found. It diverges from the other two perspectives in its unwillingness to seek Truth or to make permanent ontological or commitments like those that give rise to modernist forms of scientific approach or to symbolic-interpretive descriptions of meaning and human meaning making activity. From these other perspectives, postmodern perspective is seen to move lightly between philosophical positions (Bolman and Deal 1997). They more often refuse to take a temporary philosophical stand simply because they believe that doing so will privilege some forms of knowledge over others and this would violate postmodern ethics.

The previous two perspectives haven’t ignored the challenge laid down by postmodernists. For instance, symbolic- interpretivists, and more recently modernists, have responded to these challenges within their own systems of commitment. This has resulted to some movement toward greater self-consciousness about the assumptions that each perspective make, and how these commitments apply to the practices of social science and the theories which result from their application. For example, postmodernists have critiqued cultural anthropologists, both modernist and symbolic-interpretive for their co-optation with governments from the west to aid in the subordination of indigenous cultures.

Postmodernists argued that cultural anthropologists, were seduced and allured by western government grants and a the deceiving vision of helping less advanced cultures progress toward the ideals of Western civilization, which was conspired in the colonization of non-western people to the disadvantage of many native cultures. The response by western anthropologists was to give some voice to the members of the cultures they studied by inviting them to help in interpreting the data collected about them, and in some cases to write cultural reports by themselves. Aboriginal reports are never freer of self-interest than any other but by placing side by side reports from many perspectives. The film called Rabbit-Proof Fence gives a taste of aboriginal self-reporting on the injustices experienced by native Australians when the European colonies attempted to westernize their culture (Sarantakos 1998).


In light of the above explanation, it is important to understand the differences in the applications of the three perspectives of organization theory because there are enormous differences that are not only crucial to how theories are created but also to the way organizing is practiced in many parts of the world. If one takes the objectivist stance that an organization is a formal structure with an internal order, that is a set of natural laws governing its operation internally, and roles that must be carried out in a deterministic manner by the organizational members, he/she will manage his/her organization and act differently toward it and others within it than if he/she adopts either the subjective perspective stance or the postmodern perspective stance. Similarly, if one takes the subjective perspective stance that an organizations has got no objective structure but are continually constructed and maintained by people in it as they try to make sense of what is going on in the world over, he/she will manage his/her organization differently than if he/she assumes the postmodern perspective and thereby maintaining its skepticism towards the idea that knowledge is everything more than a canning maneuver to gain advantage power over others. Therefore, it is important to know what one’s underlying assumptions are when he/she applies his/her theories because each set of ontological and epistemological assumptions are likely to exercise a different influence on the way he/she designs and manages his/her organization.

It is important to note that the best theories are those that one has found or invented to match his/her own experience of his/her organization. In this regard, one has to learn about the theories of organizations and the type of organizing that others have developed and the skills they are using or used to formulate them. This is more likely to give one a foundation for his/her personal theorizing (Martin, 1992). He/she can use readily formulated theories as they presently stand if this could prove useful to his/her purpose or as inspiration for his/her own theory-building efforts. Either case, using organization theory may require both the mastery of the existing theories and personal development of the skills of theorizing, analysis, interpretation and critiquing. All that one is required to do is to remember is that when he/she wants to apply his/her abstract reasoning to some concrete situations he/she must reverse the process of abstraction and this would require him/her to perform more creativity and understanding.


Bolman, D, & Deal T, E 1997, Reframing organizations, 2nd edn, Jossey Pass Publishers, San Francisco

Burrell, Gibson, & Morgan 1979, Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis, Heinemann, London

Hatch, M, J 2006, Organization theory: Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspective, Oxford University Press, New Yolk.

Hatch, Mary J, C, & Ann L, 2006, Organization theory: Modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, United Kingdom

Martin, J 1992, Cultures in organizations: Three perspectives, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Oxford University Press 1997, Organization theory modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives, Mary Jo Hatch, New York

Sarantakos, S 1998, Social research, 2nd edn, Macmillan Education Australia, South Melbourne, Vic

Williamson E., Markets & Hierarchies 1975, Analysis and antitrust implications, a study in the economics of internal organizations, New York

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