What is organizational theory
Definition of organizational theory and how does it make sence in contemporary organizations
Using modernism and post- modernism
first Modernism: defining what do we mean of modernism
what is epistemological and ontological assumptions of modernism

1-Michel Foucault and Disciplinary Power
2-Bureaucracy (Weber); Systems theory
3-Scientific Management (Taylor);
and how they relate to contemporary organizations

second: Post modernism
Post-Bureaucratic organisation.
Challenging organization theory via deconstruction
and how they relate to contemporary organizations









Organisational Theory

The organisational theory is one of the models used in studying how people within an organisation act, how organisations relate to one another, and the principles that govern the behaviour of people within an organisation (Akindele et al. 2016, p. 158). The theory encompasses several viewpoints, including economics, leadership and management, communication, industrial, and individual psychology as well as social and business interactions. In other words, the theory involves the examination of the impact structures, individuals, and groups have on human behaviour within an organisation. It also studies the impact of internal and external factors such as legal, cultural, and political have on the organisation (Akindele et al. 2016, p. 158). Thus, the theory helps humans to understand organisations better, how they behave in a particular environment as well as their behaviour in a different set of circumstances.

An organisation is defined as a group of people who have come together to perform a particular set of tasks with the aim of accomplishing a common objective. All organisations are based on the synergy concept, which means many people working together can achieve more than an individual working alone. Therefore, to study the relationship between people working together and their overall impact on the performance of an organisation, several organisational theories such as Scientific Management Theory, Bureaucratic Theory, Modern Theory, Neoclassical Theory, Classical Theory, and Administrative Theory among others, have been developed (Akindele et al. 2016, p. 175).  Most of the organisational theory concepts were formulated in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. Some of the theories developed during this era include Bureaucratic Theory by Max Weber in the late 1800s and organisational theory by Henri Fayol in the 1900s (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 262). Some of the concepts developed during this era are still relevant in today’s organisations and have been applied widely in modern times.

Today, organisational theory is used to identify a suitable organisational structure that is efficient enough to deal with most of the current problems (Akindele et al. 2016, p. 159).  In modern times, the correct application of organisational theory can have many benefits both at the organisational and societal level. In the effort of an organisation to integrate themselves into the capitalistic economies, they create ripple effects between its competitors and the current economic pressures. In the event a company finds an opportunity in the market, it expands production, affecting the economic balance by hurling itself forward into a new environment and production methods. This does not only affect the individual organisation, but also other competitors and the economy at large.

Thus, it is crucial to have an effective organisational structure that will help an organisation to survive the fierce competition in the current world. Three perspectives, modernism, symbolic-interpretive, and postmodernism, can help people understand the organisational theory better. These perspectives offer different approaches as far as understanding organisational theory is concerned. For example, both the symbolic interpretive and modernists are objectivists who generally focus on reality, such as executives’ ability to make rational decisions. This reality-pursuing policy is different from that of postmodernists who are not committed to seeking the truth or make any ontological and epistemological commitments. It is apparent that postmodernists are not willing to take even a temporary philosophical stand and reject certainty and objectivity suggested by modernists.

Organisational Theory and Modernism

In terms of organisation, modernism refers to the era of scholars who perceived an organisation as an open system that is bound to change with the changes in its internal and external environment (Clegg and Kornberger 2003, p. 58). Modernists believed that an organisation interacts with its environment constantly to grow and survive in the market. Since an organisation is an open system, it is affected by components such as input, transformation processes, output, and feedback as well as external elements such as political and legal factors and customers (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 262). Therefore, modernists differ from classical theorists who perceived the organisation as a closed system. Since modernists treated an organisation as an open system whose growth and survival depended on the changes occurring in the environment, the organisation was seen as an adaptive entity that had the ability to adjust itself according to changes in the environment.

The modernism ontology is typically guided by objectivism, which states that the existing external reality does not depend on human knowledge of it. On the other hand, positivism is the core of the epistemology of modernism. Positivism indicates that knowledge accumulates among humans, allowing them to evolve and progress (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 263). One of the modern theories is Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory of Management, which argues that bureaucracy is the most effective system as far as setting up an organisation or administration is concerned. Weber indicates that the bureaucratic system is better compared to the traditional organisational structure. The theory postulates that in a bureaucratic system, all individuals are treated equally, and the tasks to be performed are clearly defined (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 262).  The concepts of this theory are still in use today, with several bureaucratic organisations existing today. In the contemporary bureaucratic organisations, rules have been formulated, processes standardised, requirements and procedures defined and division of labour and responsibilities clearly meticulously described. In addition, bureaucratic organisations have well-defined hierarchies and almost impersonal interactions among employees. According to Weber, the bureaucratic structure is crucial in big organisations as it allows many employees to perform tasks effectively (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 262). Further, he suggests that recruitment and promotion of employees should be based on technical qualifications. Most of the contemporary organisations have adopted all or some of the elements of bureaucratic theory by Max Weber such as hierarchical power, task specialisation, formal selection, impersonal relationship, rules and requirements, and career orientation (Haque and Rehman 2014, p. 262). Since modernists view an organisation as an open system, most of the elements of bureaucratic theory can be considered as environmental factors that can determine the success of an organisation. Any change in these elements can significantly affect how an organisation operates.

Another modernism theory is Scientific Management Theory by Taylor, which indicates that for effective management of organisations, functions and duties during the production process must be distinguished from each other with clear lines drawn (Paramboor, Musah, and al-Hudawi 2018, p. 330). He states that this can only be achieved through specialisation and effective division of labour and responsibilities in an organisation. Besides, work activity must be regulated and organised in well-defined standards that should be formulated through scientific analysis and all activities performed by employees should be based on scientific methods in addition to experience and intuition. Taylor adds that payment is a crucial factor in increasing employees’ motivation. He suggests that a job will be performed well by qualified workers who are well paid and use scientific operating procedures (Paramboor, Musah and al-Hudawi 2018, p. 330). Nevertheless, for several years, Taylorism and its principles concerning management and leadership have been applied in various public and private organisations for several years. Some of the executives in contemporary organisations and businesses have used a high salary as a way to motivate their employees in a bid to improve their productivity. Nevertheless, Taylor’s organisational principles have been heavily criticised, where many opposing scholars indicate that Taylor views workers as working machines. He does not consider human factors and is only obsessed with production and results (Paramboor, Musah and al-Hudawi 2018, p. 330).

From these two theories, it is evident that modernists believe that change in organisational culture can be done through a number of ways, such as changing rules and regulations using the power of existing leaders, reconstructing executives, including changing managers, CEOs or direction board as well as reorganising the divisions. All of these efforts to change organisational culture should be based on scientific investigations, and according to Taylorism, it is crucial to make some radical decisions to neutralise or minimise the factors causing inefficacy in the production of goods or provision of services.

Postmodernism and Organisational Theory

Postmodernism is a movement that has been constantly shifting and contested, which makes it difficult to come up with a single definition of the term (Maravelias 2003, p. 548). Nevertheless, this movement is typically regarded as a group of intellectuals that initiates a new philosophy or paradigm of thoughts. Some of the most prominent thinkers in this category include Michael Foucault and Hayden White. While Hayden White is credited with bringing back narratives, Michael Foucault focuses more on bringing organisation and culture concepts, especially concerning linguistics. In his theory, Michel Foucault believes that discipline is a mechanism of power that controls the way individuals behave in a social setting. This can be achieved through regulating the organisation of space such as the room design, regulation of time, including the introduction of timetables, and regulating people’s behaviour and activities. This is only enforceable through a complex surveillance system (Maravelias 2003, p. 548). Thus, Foucault is trying to reshape the understanding of power and is demonstrating that power is not an instrument of coercion (Gaventa 2003, p. 3). He also suggests that power should be diffuse and not concentrated, enacted or embodied, but instead should be possessed and discursive. Foucault contends that power should constitute agents instead of being deployed by them. Since his work represents a change from earlier modes of perceiving power, the principles of this theory cannot be integrated with previous ideas. His ideas about discipline as a mechanism of power are conflicting with the bureaucratic system where power is used as an instrument to coerce the subjects (Gaventa 2003, p. 3). The principles of his theory are being applied in organisations such as hospitals, prisons, schools, asylums, and army barracks. Administrations do not force individuals to do things against their wish but have established a culture where people are disciplined to perform various duties with minimum supervision.

Postmodernism represents a school of thoughts where most of the organisational principles, as defined by modernist theorists, have been dismissed or subjected to further scrutiny (Morris and Farrell 2007, p. 1576). Postmodernism is characterised by scholars developing new organisational practices to respond to the changing internal and external conditions of postmodern society. Thus, postmodern organisations can be defined as organisations that are not epistemologically modern and with the ability to adapt and create new and distinct operation patterns as well as regulations. However, due to the continued persistence of most of the modern organisational methods, postmodern organisations sometimes adopt some of these methods and can be considered hybrids of modern and postmodern approaches of organisation (Morris and Farrell 2007, p. 1576). Postmodern organisations exist in two distinct populations, which include the organisations that are still predominantly operated on modern lines. The postmodernists have deconstructed modernists’ beliefs as far as organisational theory is concerned. They believe that organisations should not be fundamentally bureaucratic in nature, and scholars such as Charles Heckscher developed an ideal type of organisation that was referred to as a post-bureaucratic organisation (Morris and Farrell 2007, p. 1580). Unlike modernism organisations where decision-making is centralised, postmodernism organisations apply a system where decisions are based on dialogues and consensus instead of command from the individuals occupying management positions. Postmodernism does not, therefore, apply a hierarchical form of organisation but rather a horizontal organisational structure where a consensus model is used. They believe that this type of organisational structure, as opposed to the bureaucratic one, will encourage participation and help empower individuals who usually experience oppression in groups (Maravelias 2003, p. 549). Other deconstructions that have been made by postmodernists on the modern organisational theory include changing stakeholder relationships from economic, financial, and profit maximisation to become socially conscious and ethical. Bureaucratic organisations, according to postmodernists, concentrate too much on maximising profit, sometimes at the expense of their stakeholders, including employees. Postmodernists are seeking to change this perspective and introduce one where the generation of income will be based more on ethical practices. Postmodernists also indicate that bureaucratic organisations are based on dialectical, collective, and mistrust employee relations rather than dialogical polyphonic and trust (Maravelias 2003, p. 549). They argue that with this kind of employee relationship, it is not possible to achieve a hundred per cent productivity from workers. Managers and other leaders are perceived as coaches in postmodernism as opposed to supervisors in modernism. Here, leaders have a responsibility to impart the knowledge they have to their employees and work in collaboration with workers to achieve the overall mission of an organisation. Postmodernism organisational theory is being applied in various organisations in the contemporary world, such as cooperatives, including housing cooperatives and non-governmental organisations. It is used in these contexts to encourage participation and empower individuals on a personal level (Maravelias 2003, p. 549).

Concisely, it is important noting that the core doctrines of bureaucracy such as hierarchies, are still dominant in most organisations today. While some organisations have adopted postmodernism principles, modernism ideas still dominate and can only be described as cleaned up bureaucracies rather than an exclusive shift away from bureaucracy.


















Reference List

Akindele, S.T., Afolabi, Y.A., Pitan, O.O. and Gidado, T.O., 2016. The Threads of Organisational Theory: A Phenomenological Analysis. Management6(5), pp.158-184.

Clegg, S.R. and Kornberger, M., 2003. Modernism, postmodernism, management and organisation theory. In Post Modernism and Management (pp. 57-88). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Gaventa, J., 2003. Power after Lukes: a review of the literature. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.

Haque, S. and Rehman, N., 2014. Modern organisation theory: analyzing the complexity of coordination and cooperation in the modern organisations. International Journal of Management and sustainability3(5), p.261.

Maravelias, C., 2003. Post-bureaucracy–control through professional freedom. Journal of Organisational Change Management16(5), pp.547-566.

Morris, J. and Farrell, C., 2007. The ‘post-bureaucratic’public sector organisation. New organisational forms and HRM in ten UK public sector organisations. The international journal of human resource management18(9), pp.1575-1588.

Paramboor, J., Musah, M. and al-Hudawi, S., 2018. Scientific Management Theory: a Critical Review from Islamic Theories of Administration. Al-Shajarah: Journal of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), pp.321-336.

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