Organizational Theory

Organizational theory can be defined as "the study of organizations for the benefit of identifying common themes for the purpose of solving problems, maximizing efficiency and productivity, and meeting the needs of stakeholders." (Barzilai, 2011)

Organizational theory for higher education is a key component of an overall successful institution. Converging trends of competition for students, lower government funding, and accountability have enhanced the importance of an efficient and productive organizational strategy.

Three Perspectives of Organizational Theory:

1.      The Positivist Perspective:

This paradigm states there is an objective organizational reality separate from the observer’s perspective that can be discovered by observation, analysis, and verification of others. The objective is to explain, predict ,and control or intervene to maximize the organization (Nadler & Tushman, 1997).

2.      The Social Construction Perspective:

The construct believes organizations are created by humans, individually and in groups (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Weick, 1969, 1995). Organizational reality is created and reshaped every day from interpersonal interactions. Senge (1990) created the concept of “mental modes,” in which members must be aware of their own lens and how they view the organization in different lights.

3.      The Postmodern Perspective:

The postmodern view builds upon the social construct in that it rejects positivist perspective and critically questions thoughts of modern life. The theory suggests that human experience is segmented. Knowledge is gained across many experiences and cannot be lumped into one generalization across many contexts. Predicting the future based on the past is not possible (Hirschhorn, 1997).


Barzilai, K. (2009). Organizational theory. Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved November 26, 2012.

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            Effective Policy and Practice. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing.

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Davidson, M., Dove, L., &Weltz J. (1999). Mental Modes and Usability. Cognative Psychology.

New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Hirschhorn, L. (1997). Reworking authority: Leading and following in a postmodern

organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Weick, K. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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