Understanding Organization Theory

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PART

I
What is Organization Theory?
theorist /’ Ιər Ιst/ n. a holder or inventor of a theory or theories. theorize/’ ΙəraΙz/ v. intr. (also -ise) evolve or indulge in theories. theorizer n. theory /’ ΙərΙ / n. (pl. -ies) 1 a supposition or system of ideas explaining something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the particular things to be explained (opp. HYPOTHESIS)

(atomic theory; theory of evolution). 2 a specula-

tive (esp. fanciful) view (one of my pet theories). 3 the sphere of abstract knowledge or speculative thought (this is all very well in theory, but how will it work in practice?). 4 the exposition of the principles of a science etc. (the theory of music). 5 Math. a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject (probability theory; theory of equations). [LL theoria – – – – f. Gk theo ria f. theo ros spectator f. theo reo look at] Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary

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1
Why Study Organization Theory?
Organization theory is not an easy sell. Unless you are naturally drawn to the abstract, you probably expect this subject to be dry, unconnected to practical matters and perhaps a little boring. Even if you are enthusiastic about abstractions, it can be daunting to confront as many of them at one time as organization theory asks you to do. So why would anyone sign up to study this complex and difficult subject matter? There are many different answers to this question. For some, studying organization theory is motivated by curiosity. They wonder what it would be like to think like an organization, to get inside organizing processes far enough to reveal the intricate organizational patterns that make organizations understandable. Others are motivated by the attraction of stretching their minds in new ways. For example, organization theory draws on the sciences, the humanities and the arts, and so presents the intellectual challenge of thinking in interdisciplinary ways. Some turn to organization theory in the hope that it will improve their chances of becoming successful executives in business, government or non-profit organizations. Table 1.1 lists some of their specific reasons. For me, it was something else entirely. I came to organization theory reluctantly when it was foisted upon me as a requirement of my doctoral program. To say that I did not appreciate organization theory when I first encountered it would be putting it mildly. In a way, my initial disaffection with organization theory inspired this book. Once I began using organization theory, my experiences convinced me that this field of study is not only valuable—it is interesting! Organization theory has helped me time and again to analyze complicated situations in the organizations with which I have worked, and to discover or invent effective and creative means for dealing with them. It has opened my mind to many aspects of life both inside and outside organizations that I previously took for granted, and it has given me both mental discipline and a wide-ranging knowledge of many different subjects. My amazement at how relevant and valuable organization theory can be caused me to reverse my initially low opinion of the field and find great enthusiasm for it. It is this change in my perception that led me to write this book. Through it I hope to share my insights and enthusiasm with you as you discover the benefits and attractions of organization theory for yourself. Whether you come to organization theory out of curiosity, a desire to improve your chances of success in life, or simply because somebody made you do it, there are three interrelated things I can tell you that will ease your way into this complex subject. The first involves theories and theorizing, the second concerns abstraction and its place in theory development, and the third explains why you need to study organizations from...
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