Understanding Organisations: Understanding the Internal and External Organisational Environments

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Understanding Organisations: Understanding the internal and external organisational environments

This section covers:

Organisational theory
Organisation structure
Centralisation and decentralization
Levels of the organization
Mintzberg's nine design parameters
Formal organisational relationships
Definition of an organisation: Systems of activities and behaviours to enable humans and their machines to accomplish goals and objectives… a joint function of human characteristics and the nature of the task environment.

Organisational Theory

Organisations are 'complex adaptive systems' that use people, tasks and technologies to achieve specified goals and objectives. Organisational theory refers to how organisations are structured and how they are managed.

Structure the organisation of the resources and assets and represents the division and distribution of work among members (managers and employees) of the organisation, and the co-ordination of their activities in such a way that they are directed towards achieving the declared goals and objectives of the organisation. Management is about how the organisation manages the structure, the resources and the activities within the organisation and how it measures and monitors the resulting performance towards achieving the declared goals and objectives of the organisation.

Organisational theory attempts to explain how organisations work by defining the common features that organisations or groups of organisations share, by collecting data about them, and by analysing them, assessing 'what works where - and why!. (It is important here to understand that structure and management of organisations will differ - differ with the sector they operate in (public, private, voluntary) and differ with their various stakeholder configuration, differ also with the particular strategic goals and objectives they set themselves. There is therefore no one 'recipe' that will work across all, or even many, organisations, the structure will reflect what is today being called the 'DNA' of organisations - which takes into account organisational culture -'the way we do things around here' and other factors particular to any one organisation.

Why we study Organisational Theory

Organisational theory is especially useful for people who manage organisations, or who aspire to do so in the future. But whether or not you are a manager, if you work in public health, you will be working with organisations - hospitals, charities, local and national government etc - and so you need to understand them. It enables the manager to see that his or her organisation and its problems are rarely wholly unique. Usually, much of value can be learned from examining the behaviour of other organisations in broadly similar circumstances. It can help us to explain what is happening in our own organisation and to identify possible solutions to its challenges, issues and problems, provided the solutions selected take into account cultural and other key aspects and are not simply 'broad-brush' or replica implementations based on what is done elsewhere.

Organisations, especially large organisations are generally 'complex', having many inter-related facets and areas that need to be co-ordinated, managed together to achieve efficiencies and effectiveness in achieving stated goals and objectives. Organisations also need to be 'adaptive', they need to respond to ongoing changes in the environments in which they operate e.g. the political, social, economic and technological conditions that together form the environment in which organisations operate.

Even if you do not aspire to be a manager, organisational theory should be of interest to you. We live in a world of organisations - work, university, clubs, trade unions, professional bodies, shops, and so on. Organisational theory can help explain how they work and why they work in the ways they do. Understanding how they work may even enable you to get...
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