CHAPTER 2

Perspectives on Organizational Design until Recent Times

WHAT THIS CHAPTER COVERS

This chapter outlines the main developments in organizational design over approximately the past hundred years. Its purpose is to provide an appreciation of what have become “conventional” ways of organizing, which continue to be widely found in practice and are engrained in the thinking of many administrators and managers who make decisions about organization. It focuses on both the search for “one best ways” of organizing, of which so-called “classical organization theory” and scientific management are prime examples, and on the more recent “contingency approach.” The contingency approach argues that in order to contribute to successful overall performance, how a work unit is organized must adjust to features of both its internal context and external environment. The internal context includes technology, size, diversification, people and purpose. The external environment includes the cultural environment in which the unit is located and its operational environment, especially the level of variability and uncertainty with which it has to cope.

“Conventional” ways of organizing continue to be widely found in practice and are ingrained in the thinking of many administrators and managers who make decisions on the subject. They developed initially through a search for “one best ways” of organizing, of which both so-called “classical organization theory” and scientific management are prime ...

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