Formal organizations are typically understood to be systems of coordinated and controlled activities that arise when work is embedded in complex networks of technical relations and boundary-spanning exchanges. But in modern societies, formal organizational structures arise in highly institutional contexts. Organizations are driven to incorporate the practices and procedures defined by prevailing rationalized concepts of organizational work and institutionalized in society. Organizations that do so increase their legitimacy and their survival prospects, independent of the immediate efficacy of the acquired practices and procedures. There can develop a tension between on the one hand, the institutionalized products, services, techniques, policies, and programs that function as myths (and may be ceremonially adopted), and efficiency criteria on the other hand. To maintain ceremonial conformity, organizations that reflect institutional rules tend to buffer their formal structures from the uncertainties of the technical activities by developing a loose coupling between their formal structures and actual work activities.
Organizations: Two Sociological Perspectives
Much recent sociological work on the nature of organizations starts from the assumption that organizations are best studied and understood as parts of an environment. If organizations exist within a distinctive environment, then what aspects of that environment should be most closely examined? Sociologists have answered this question in two different ways: for some, the key features are the resources and information that may be used rationally within the organization or exchanged with other organizations within the environment; for others, the essential focus is on the cultural surround that determines and moderates the organization's possible courses of action in ways that are more subtle, less deterministic than the resources information perspective... [continues]
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