CONTENTS                                                                                                                                      PAGE(S)



1      OUTLINE OF THE THEORIES………………………………………………………………..5,6

A.  The Systems Metaphor

B.   Classical Theories of Organization………………………………………………………….9-12

C.   Bureaucratic Function and Dysfunction………………………………………………  …13-14

          D.  21st-Century Counterpoints to Classical Theories…………………………………………….15

                 1. Holocracy and its Discontents         2. The post-COVID-19 Hybrid Workplace

E.   Human Relations/Behavior/Psychology

F.   Informal Organizational Structures and Processes

G. Systems/Environmental

H.  Public Organization Environmental


A.  The Systems Metaphor……………………………………………………………..………..7-9

1.     Closed Systems

2.     Open (“Adaptive”) Systems

B.   Organizational Theories: The Classical School………………………………………..….9-13

1.     Scientific Management Organizational Theory

2.     Bureaucratic Management Organizational Theory

3.     Administrative Management Organizational Theories..

C.   Organization Theories: Bureaucratic Function and Dysfunction…………………….…..13-15

D.  Organizational Theories: Human Relations/Behavior/Psychology……………………… 16-20

E.   Organizational Theories: Informal Organizational Processes…………………..…………21-22

1.     Path-Dependency Decision Making

F.   Organizational Theories: Contingency Theory and Adaptive Systems Theory..      ………….22-24

G.  Organizational Theories Specific to Public Organization Environments……………..…24-27


Text Box: Notes:

             Make sure to type your answer in a WORD file so that you can easily and quickly cut & paste it onto the Quiz Essay question in Blackboard.  The Quiz is closed book, so you’ll need to copy your essay answer from a separate WORD file.

Essay   Read the 3 articles about the U.S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) listed under #s 8, 9, and 10 on the Reading list. Apply your new knowledge of traditional organizational theories (Rainey, et al. text and Workbook 1) to (1) identify 2 specific problems at the USPTO, 2) explain how these two problems could have arisen either through the failure to apply a relevant theory or the ineffective application of strategy based on a specific theory, and (3) explain how the 2 problems might be solved by applying a specific organizational theory or theories.  Use your critical thinking skills to connect theories to problem emergence & problem solutions. There is no “correct answer” to this question; the goal here is to use your critical thinking skills to decide which of the organizational theories you are studying this week can explain problems in this case study, as well as help solve them. Do not simply indicate a theory or theories; rather, analyze how and why the theory or theories can best explain and solve a problem. The more specific you are about the details of the theories you choose for this case study, the better your answer.


READINGS: The short articles listed in numbers 3-12 below are available on our Blackboard UReserves site.

HINT: Read Dr. Beck’s Workbook #1 first so that you know what to look for in the Rainey et al. and other readings.  You do not hand in your Workbook but you will need to fill in the Term explanations, know the starred terms, and answer the questions in order to do well in Quiz #1 and on our Discussion Board this week.

1.    Rainey, H. G., et al. 6th edition (2021). Understanding and managing public organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Read pp. 15–39 and 84–87

2. Wriston, M. J. (1980). “In defense of bureaucracy.” Public Administration Review, 40(2), 179–183.

3.   Berman, D.K. (2015. Oct. 27). “The No-Boss Company: Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, explains…holocracy” The Wall Street Journal.

4.   Silverman, R.E. (2015, May 21). “Going Bossless Backfires at Zappos.” The Wall Street Journal.

5.   Seay, E. (2022, May 18). “The Biggest Challenges for a Hybrid Workplace.” The Wall Street Journal.

6.   HRNews (2022, March 22). “Preventing Proximity Bias in a Hybrid Workplace.” Society for Human Resource Management.

7.  Rein, L. (2015, April 14). “Patent and trademark office doesn’t know if examiners are doing their jobs, watchdog says.” The Washington Post.

8.  Rein, L. (2015, August 21). “He billed the government for four months of work he never did — and his teleworking boss never

       noticed.” The Washington Post.

9. Cordell, C. (2016, August 31). “OIG issues scathing report on USPTO teleworking. Federal Times (


1. Government Accountability Office (2008, May 8). “Social Security Administration Field Offices. Reduced Workforce Faces Challenges as Baby Boomers Retire.” GAO-08-737T.  Government Report.  Read pages 1-19.  

2. Government Accountability Office (2018, July). “Social Security Disability: Better Timeliness Metrics Needed to Assess Transfers of Appeals Work (July 2018). GAO-18-501. Read pages 1-29. NOTE: There is a lot of excellent organizational theory-related material especially in the second half of this report.


Theories about organizational structure and management are not simply abstract constructions that have no connection to concrete practices. In fact, all practice is based on theoretical propositions or assumptions, whether these are consciously or unconsciously applied.

Theories are sets of suppositions or principles that are used to explain certain phenomena. The Oxford English Dictionary defines theory as “[a] supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.”[1] An important part of this definition is “independent of the thing to be explained,” because theories are part of deductive reasoning; that is, their starting point is a general set of principles about how things work. Theories are then tested “from the top down” by applying the principles to specific cases to observe if the application of the theory produces the expected outcome. Inductive reasoning, in contrast, involves observing a case study or series of specific cases and drawing general conclusions about how things work “from the bottom up.”

A profound knowledge of organizational theories allows managers to understand the dynamics of how their organizations work, how to identify and solve problems in all areas of organizational operation, and how to introduce productive changes to organizational structure and processes. The lack of theoretical savvy can leave managers just “muddling through,” and that can result in organizational dysfunction or even extinction.

The following is a synopsis of the explanation of organizational theories in our class text: Rainey (2021). Additional material has been added to clarify and expound upon some concepts.

The classification and organization of the theories is somewhat different here than in the Rainey text; thus, the page numbers in the text where you can find the information are listed here. Following this list is a general overview of the theories, as well as some additional information to help you understand the context in which the theories were formed and to provide some useful visuals.

Text Box: Notes:

In your first QUIZ this week you will match each theory listed below with a brief explanation of its content. As you go through this week’s workbook, the theories you should identify to prepare for the Quiz will be preceded by the symbol . Read the Rainey, et al. text, Chapter 2, pp. 13–39 and Chapter 4, pp. 84–87. Highlight information about the following theories in the text and/or write down key words or a brief explanation of each theory in this Workbook from which to study.

Text Box: Notes:NOTE: There is no one definition of each of the theories that you study this week.  The idea is for you to understand the core meaning of each theory, as well as keywords associated with each theory.  For example, Taylor’s scientific management theory, Weber’s theory of bureaucracy, and the Gulick and Mooney administrative theories have many things in common, but each is distinct from the others in certain ways, and each has its own relevant keywords that should help you separate one from the other.  The short explanations you will see listed in Quiz #1 will most likely not match exactly the explanations you write down in your Workbook, but they should be similar enough that you can recognize which short explanation best corresponds to which theory. 


A.         The Systems Metaphor

Closed Systems

Open (“Adaptive”) Systems      

B.          Classical Theories of Organization

Scientific Management: Taylor 

Bureaucracy: Weber                    

Administrative Management: Gulick/ Mooney            

C.         21st-Century Counterpoints to Classical Theories


Post-pandemic Hybrid Workplace

D.         Bureaucratic Function and Dysfunction

Bureaupathology: Merton and Thompson

             Goal displacement

             Trained incapacity                                  

Socialization: Kaufman             

Continued on next page

E.          Human Relations/Behavior/Psychology

Employee Psychology: Hawthorne studies

Human Needs: Maslow

Theory X/Theory Y: McGregor  

Behavior and Organizational Change: Lewin

F.          Informal Organizational Structures and Processes

Incentives: Barnard

Decision Making: Simon

Path Dependency

G.         Systems/Environmental

Open (“Adaptive”) Systems

Text Box: Notes:Contingency Adaptation            

Contingency Buffering: Thompson        

H.         Public Organization Environmental

Resource Dependency

Transaction Costs          

Institutionalism /Isomorphism

                          – Coercive

                          – Normative

                          – Mimetic


The following covers the organizational theories that Rainey et al. identify as being applicable to all organizations (Chapter 2, pp. 15–39) and those theories that they identify as being especially applicable to public organizations (Chapter 4, pp. 84-87). The outline here is the same as that listed in this Workbook’s Table of Contents above, indicating all the terms you need to know for Week 1, Quiz #1. The idea here is to provide the general context and some visual explanations of organizational theory to help you understand how they developed and what they mean.

A.         The Systems Metaphor

Rainey et al. begin with a brief explanation of closed and open system on page 16. The systems metaphor is excellent in understanding organizations’ approaches to their operations and their relationships to the outside environment.  Open systems as connected to contingency theory (see below) are referred to on page 35.

1.      Closed Systems

Closed systems are self-contained units or structures that use a defined set of inputs (such as materials, information, or worker labor) to engage in a process used to create an end product (a car, a particular service, a set of information).  Feedback about the product is used to improve inputs and/or processes to provide a better product.  While feedback comes from the environment, it is used only to improve the established function

[input => process => output], without altering the nature of the system.  Closed systems protect themselves from the environment in order to remain stable and predictable.  Organizations based on a closed system principle are sometimes referred to as “mechanical,” given their propensity to be based on established mechanisms that operate in isolation from external influences:

A more detailed explanation of the theories, visuals representing how the theories work, Terms to explain, and Questions to answer follow on the next pages:

  • Closed System
Title: Closed System graphic - Description: Square showing a process
Left vertical Input (resources)
Top horizontal Process (application of resources)
Right down vertical Output (product)
Bottom horizontal arrow going left back to Input (Feedback, depending on resources within the closed system))

Credit: Marcia A Beck

2.      Open (“Adaptive”) Systems

An open or adaptive system is a structure or operation that is responsive to inputs from and changes to its external environment.  Exposure to environmental factors requires changes to the processes taking place inside the structure and at times to the structure itself.   In addition to the “inputs” and “outputs” of closed systems, open systems entail adaptive “throughputs” – processes that can convert information from the environment and integrate that information into the operation of the system, or convert the information in ways that it can be integrated. Open systems adapt to their environment in ways that affect both their processes and their structures.

In organizational theory, the open systems metaphor refers to the flexibility of organizations in adapting their resources, processes, and structure to environmental changes.  Open, or adaptive, systems and organizations are considered to be “organic” as opposed to “mechanical” because they operate more like living organisms that respond to environmental influences than mechanical processes that run on their own steam.  The open systems concept is increasingly important in organizational theory given that the very complex environments in which organizations operate today demand a myriad of sometimes real-time adaptations if the organizations are to be effective and attain their goals.

  • Open System
Title: Open System graphic - Description: Flow diagram "Environment in which System Operates"
Left to right
Inputs, throughputs, outputs, outcomes, feedback linking back to the inputs + throughputs + outcomes process.

Credit: Marcia A. Beck

B.          Organizational Theories: The Classical School

The “classical” theories of organizational design and management tend to approach organizations as “closed systems” – self-contained structures based on a hierarchy of authority, clear divisions of labor and tasks, a set of rules and regulations to clearly delineate functions, processes, and authority relationships, and administrative guidelines to ensure effective operations and coordination within organizations.

The first classical theories emerged as society was moving from traditional to modern forms of production and authority.  Traditional forms of production were based on crafts and guilds.  Workers had specific skills, such as leatherworking, basket-weaving, woodworking, and masonry, that they would apply to making products without mechanization and without collaboration.  Workers made their own products from start to finish; craft guilds represented and protected workers in a particular field and regulated the practice of material acquisition, production, and distribution.  Traditional forms of authority were based on monarchical and feudal authority that permeated the economic and social systems, with representatives of monarchs or feudal rulers bestowing or withdrawing rights based in large part on personal favor or the granting of certain privileges.

Two profound historical processes centered in the western worldtransformed traditional societies and economies and jump-started the modernization process in at times revolutionary, but more often evolutionary, ways:  The industrial revolution that started at the end of the 18th century and continued through the early 20th century radically altered the available resources used in production, the way products were produced, the organization of production processes, the way workers worked, and the nature of workers’ input into the final product.  As new techniques allowed for the extraction and production of vast sources of minerals and new machines transformed great blocks of iron and steel into finished products, factories were built to efficiently organize workers around manufacturing processes to produce products that could be made and sold on a large scale.  Workers now became concentrated in factories.  Their skills would no longer be directed toward producing a self-made product or service, but rather toward participating in part of a larger production process. 

The second historical transformation was political: the change from monarchical systems to constitutional monarchies or republics in which authority was based on the rule of law rather than on the mandates or preferences of the monarch and his/her representatives.  The rule of law standardized legal practices in determining functional social relationships whereby, for the first time, the office a person held was more important than the person him/herself.  The office was bound by rules and regulations that the office holder was expected to follow.  This not only made social and economic practices more predictable, it was considered to be fairer to citizens, who now had clear guidelines about rights and obligations in a system of authority that was clearly defined.

As the industrial revolution and the rule of law became deeply embedded in the socio-economic and political fabric of modern societies, efforts were directed toward making production processes and the legal system more efficient.  As factory work made the production of goods more predictable and geared toward mass production for consumer societies, efforts were made to maximize production while minimizing costs in order to produce profits.  As the rule of law became established as the method to organize social and political life, efforts were made to make legal processes more rational and efficient, so that laws would promote desired outcomes, such as a stable social order, an educated populace, and effective methods to reduce crime.

As you will see when you read the Rainey text and identify the terms associated with theories of organizational design and management, you’ll notice how the classical theories all relate to these changes in production techniques and the rule of law.


1.      Scientific Management Organizational Theory

Spearheaded by Frederick Taylor, the Scientific Management theory provided a new approach to understanding how workers could best be organized to efficiently produce products and how the manager-worker relationship should be conceived to facilitate efficient production. Taylor imagined that this system would not only make production more efficient, but that it would also help workers maximize wages and increase the quality of their work. You will see from the Rainey text that this was not always how Taylor’s theory was interpreted.

1              Scientific Management theory: Taylor:

systematic analysis of “every little act” in tasks to be performed by workers. They were also trained in these procedures so they could maximize their own output.

2.      Bureaucratic Management Organizational Theory

Introduced by Max Weber, the Bureaucratic Management theory was designed to make authority more transparent and predictable in a society based on the rule of law. While the word bureaucracy often has a very negative connotation in our contemporary world, Weber saw bureaucratic methods as replacing the actions of unpredictable feudal lords or charismatic political figures or their offshoots who considered organizations their own personal domains. When you identify this term, you will see how Weber thought his theory would both increase efficiency inside organizations and be a much more equitable way to operate organizations for both workers and managers alike.

2              Bureaucratic Management organizational theory: Max Weber:

                          qualified career officials, a structured hierarchy, and clear, rule-based specifications of duties made for precision, speed, clarity, and consistency.

3. Administrative Management Organizational Theories

Once Taylor’s theories had been applied to worker organization and production and Weber’s bureaucratic theory started to influence the way organizations were established and operated, organizational theorists began to look at ways to make the administration of organizations more predictable and as effective as possible. These theories therefore emphasized administrative measures to organize levels of authority and methods of delegation that would promote utmost efficiency in identifying exactly who should make decisions about what and how those decisions should pass down the lines of authority in order to make the organization’s operation as efficient as possible. Two of the more influential administrative management theorists are Luther Gulick and James Mooney. Gulick’s recommendations were designed to provide administrators with the optimal methods of supervising and instructing employees and to articulate a series of tasks that would rationalize the operations of the organization and promote the most efficient outcomes. Mooney contributed to the administrative management school by offering his own ideas about how best to organize lines of authority in a highly structured organization in order to promote efficiency, stability, and predictability of outcomes.

When you identify Gulick’s and Mooney’s contributions to Administrative Management organizational theory, make sure to include the methods they advocated for organizing authority and tasks to rationalize organizations’ operations.

3              Administrative Management theory: Gulick:

They sought to develop principles of administration to guide managers in such functions as planning, organizing, supervising, controlling, and delegating authority. Coordination should be guided by several principles. First is the span of control – the number of subordinates reporting to one supervisor. The span of control should be kept narrow, limited to between six and ten subordinates per supervisor. Gulick sought to define the job of management through what became one of the most influential acronyms in general management and public administration: POSDCORB. The letters stand for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting.

4              Administrative Management theory: Mooney:

     He said that an organization must be like a scale, a graded series of steps, in levels of authority and corresponding responsibilities. The principle involved several component principles, including leadership. said, a “supreme coordinating authority” at the top must project itself through the “scalar chain” to coordinate the entire structure.

C.         Organization Theories: Bureaucratic Function and Dysfunction

Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Management theory of organization made a huge impact on the creation and development of modern organizational structures. In time, it became clear that adhering to bureaucratic processes could have unintended consequences: some positive and some perversive.

In the following I provide explanations of an organizational theory that posits a potentially negative outcome of the bureaucratic model and an organizational theory that projects a potentially positive outgrowth of the bureaucratic model.  To explain two specific examples of the negative outcome, please search the internet and write in your own words an explanation of each. You should be able to identify each of the 4 terms below on Quiz #1 and to apply these terms to our case studies throughout our course.

5                           Bureaupathology:

Thompson 1961, 153-177: resistance to change, impersonal treatment of employees, excessive reliance on rules & procedures, resistance to change, strict employee roles with no flexible adaptation to changing organizational/customer needs or unpredictable events. Ties into closed systems. Polar opposite of contingency adaptation (see below).

 6 a and b                                  Bureaupathology examples:

  1. Goal displacement

<<Type your term explanation here>>

  • Trained incapacity

<<Type your term explanation here>>

As bureaucracies proliferated, bureaucratic structures began to impact not only lines of authority and work processes, but also the perpetuation of values. Adherence to bureaucratic operations and assumptions about individuals’ roles in bureaucratic structures tended to create a set of values that permeated the organization. These values could be interpreted as negative, if they developed in ways predicted by Merton and Thompson above, or they could be interpreted as positive, as in Kaufman’s theory about how bureaucracy influenced values in the U.S. Forest System.

Refer to this when you identity H. Kaufman’s “Socialization”    theory in the category of bureaucratic function and dysfunction theories  (Rainey p. 50).

7                                                Bureaucratic Socialization: Herbert Kaufman

 The Forest Ranger: A Study of Administrative Behavior.[2]  Beginning in 1905, a U.S. land management agency eventually became responsible for 60 million acres of far-flung land and forests.  As this agency developed into the U.S. Forest Service, it had charge over more than 180 million acres of land and forests.  Kaufman studied how the Forest Service overcame a “multitude of centrifugal forces,” such as a huge diversity of tasks, a decentralized structure focused on local needs and operational methods, and problems related to huge geographical distances and a multitude of settings, to become a model bureaucratic organization with efficient implementation of federal policies and a highly motivated staff. Kaufman theorized that socialization processes in the areas of both policy implementation and organizational values were facilitated by bureaucratic structures to the point where the Forest Service has become one of the most lauded federal agencies in both government and academia.  Kaufman argued that organizational training, emphasis on Forest Service values such as land preservation, and the implementation of policies “preformed” at the federal level and executed at local levels created both an efficient organization and a workforce dedicated to common organization values.  When we tackle our Department of Homeland Security (DHS) case study later in the course, try to determine why Kaufman’s socialization theory failed to produce the same organizational and staff outcomes at the DHS after twenty years in operation.

D.         21st-Century Counterpoints to the Classical Theories


             Many start-up companies in the early 2000s encouraged employees to work independently and in teams, with as few managerial and bureaucratic constraints as possible.  New technologies, the speed of new developments, the younger age of entrepreneurs and talented employees, and the tendency for innovation to outpace standardization all led to the push for less managerial hierarchy and more employee independence.  Tony Tsieh (pronounced “Shay”), who founded the firm Zappos, introduced these concepts into his company through the use the holocracy model.  See readings 3 b, c, & d on p. 3 of this Workbook for the origin of the term and an explanation of what it is.  As you’ll see, the practice of holocracy hasn’t lived up to its theory and many companies that adopted it are now abandoning it.

The post-COVID-19 Hybrid Workplace

What started out as a necessity – having employees work from home in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus – is turning into a hot debate: In the post pandemic world, should the hybrid workplace become the standard model of work or does it present too many problems that may undermine company effectiveness, efficiency and morale? See readings #6 & #7 on p. 3 of this Workbook for the problems presented by the Hybrid model and possible solutions.

E.          Organizational Theories: Human Relations/Behavior/Psychology

The Scientific Management, Bureaucratic Management, and Administrative Management organizational theories soon came under attack for treating workers like mechanistic cogs in a wheel, with no thought for their needs, health, and well-being. As advances in psychology and human behavior progressed throughout the 20th century, organizational theorists began to focus on the worker as an individual with certain needs, not simply as one of the “means of production” in a factory or service organization, to be administered and managed just as non-human resources were administered and managed. Instead, the psychological orientations of workers to their work and to their workplace became key components of organizational theory. In combination with an increasing number of laws designed to protect worker health and well-being in the workplace by, for example, preventing repetitive action injuries, human relations and behavioral psychology theories were applied to organizational design and operations both to create the conditions under which workers would be most productive and to promote the well-being of workers as a value in and of itself.

The four theories that you should identify in this category are the Hawthorne Studies (Rainey, et al., p. 23), Maslow’s Hierarchy of Prepotency (Rainey, et al., p. 29), McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y about worker motivation (Rainey, et al., pp. 29-30), and Lewin’s theory about employee attitudes in relation to productive changes in an organization (Rainey, et al., pp. 27-28). The following explanations include some visual representations to help you as you identify these terms using the Rainey text as your foundation.

8                                                                 The Hawthorne experiments:

                              behavior. An employee’s work-group experiences, a sense of the importance of the work, and concern on the part of supervisors are among the important social and psychological influences on workers.

The following diagram illustrates how increased worker productivity is associated more strongly with informal social factors, paying attention to the worker, and open communication, according the Hawthorne Studies.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

  • The Hawthorne Studies
Title: Hawthorne Studies graphic - Description: Top square left: Workplace financial conditions (wage & benefits) with a thin arrow to central box indicating Worker Morale & Job Satisfaction.
Bottom Square left: Workplace Social Conditions (Attention from managers, employee engagement, teamwork) with a thicker arrow (more impact) to central box indicating Worker Morale & Job Satisfaction. From this central box is an arrow to Worker Productivity.

Credit: Marcia A. Beck

The Hawthorne experiments also made clear that the formal rules of an organization are often accompanied by informal rules that emerge from unofficial social interactions and norms brought into the workplace that remain unaffected by the formal rules. We will examine two theories related to informal rules in the next category of organizational theories. Here, we continue with more human behavior theories.

9                          Hierarchy of Prepotency: Abraham Maslow: (Rainey, et al., p. 29)

             The needs in the lowest category dominate a person’s motives until they are sufficiently fulfilled, then those in the next-highest category dominate, and so on.

  •  Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy
Title: Maslow's Needs Hierarchy ("Hierarchy of Prepotency") - Description: Multi-colored pyramid going from the physical needs of employees at the very bottom progressing to the spiritual needs of employees at the very top.  The progression of needs from the bottom (physcial) to the top (spiritual) is: biological health (water, food, shelter), safety (protection, security, order, stability), belongingness (family, friends, love, relationships), estemm (achievement, status, self-respect), cognitive (self-awareness, pursuit of knowledge), aesthetic (music, art, nature), aesthetic (music, art, nature), self-actualization (personal growth), transcendence (helping others to self-actualize).

Credit: McGourty, D. (2014). Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – a theory of human motivation.Retrieved from

10               Theory X and Theory Y: Employee characteristics and managers’ responses:

                                                    (Rainey, et al., pp. 29-30)

             <<Type your term explanation here>>

In his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor theorized that managers of organizations treat employees based on their assumptions, either conscious or unconscious, about the nature of employee attitudes, behavior, and motivation. Identify both the alleged characteristics of workers and how those presumed characteristics affect management style and authority in Theory X and Theory Y. See the visual representations below:

  • Theory X, Theory Y
Title: Theory X, Theory Y graphic - Description: Theory X on left:  At the top is Management with arrows pointing down to Staff: the box in the middle: the characteristics that managers use to manage those employees they consider to be "Theory X:" authoritarian, repressive style, tight control, with the outcomes of: no development, produces limited, depressed culture.  Theory Y on the right:  Management is at the bottom and Staff is at the top, with arrows pointing upwards from management to staff. Box in the middle: the characteristics that managers use to manage those employees they consider to be "Theory Y:" liberating and developmental, control/achievement/continuous improvement achieved by enabling, empowering, and giving responsibility.

Credit: Chapman, A. (2002). Theory X, Theory Y [Diagram].
Retrieved from

11                               Employee behavior and organizational change:

                                                                                (Rainey, et al., pp. 27-28)

To change people, you must change these forces. Groups exert pressures and influences on the individuals within them. One must alter the total field of group pressures, through a three-phase process. The first phase is “unfreezing,” or weakening the forces against change and strengthening the forces for change. Next, the “changing” phase moves the group to a new equilibrium point. Finally, the “refreezing” phase firmly sets the new equilibrium through such processes as expressions of group consensus.

Kurt Lewin applied knowledge about how employees’ organizational environment affected their willingness or aversion to change within the organization. Lewin surmised that employees embody a certain set of attitudes and behaviors that establish the parameters of what they are willing to change and their levels of resistance to change. Lewin’s contribution to the field of organization theory was to change these parameters in a 3-part process in order to implement productive change in an organization. His theory of organizational change can also be understood in terms of the open system’s metaphor, where the “transformation” of workers’ attitudes is analogous to the “throughputs” of adaptive systems, whereby feedback from the environment makes a change, producing impact on internal processes. The visual below is designed to help you identify the Behavior and Organizational Change theory from the text (Rainey, et al., pp. 27-28).

  • Lewin’s Three Phases of Change
Title: Lewin's Three Phases of Organizational Change graphic - Description: Three connected boxes:
box on left: UNFREEZING: Planning (preliminary diagnosis, data gathering, feedback of results, action planning). Arrow leading to box in the middle: TRANSFORMATION: Action (learning processes, action planning steps). Arrow leading to the third box: OUTPUT: Results (changes in behavior, data gathering, measurement).  Feedback Loop A at the bottom goes leftward from TRANSFORMATION to INPUT box.  Feedback Loop B at the bottom goes leftward from OUTPUT box to TRANSFORMATION box. Feedback Loop C at the bottom goes from OUTPUT box to INPUT box.  Credit:

Credit: O’Connor, T. (2013). Lewin’s three phases of change [Diagram].
Retrieved from

F.          Organizational Theories: Informal Organizational Processes

The two theories you need to identify here pick up where the Hawthorne Studies left off. They identify some informal processes, specifically patterns of behavior, motivation, values, and decision making that often play a significant role in workplace relations, organizational processes, and even organizational performance.

12                               Barnard’s Incentives theory:    (Rainey, et al., pp. 24-25)

                  <<Type your term explanation here>>

This theory is based on actions that managers can take to improve employee motivation and productivity that go beyond the mere payment of wages. Barnard understood this as a process of communication between employees and management rather than as part of a scientific or administrative management system designed simply to compel workers to produce more efficiently.

13                               Simon’s Decision-Making theory:   (Rainey, et al., p. 26)

                          <<Type your term explanation here>>

This theory shows how decision making in organizations is affected by non-rational influences that skew the rationality of decision-making processes and by external factors that explicitly exclude the possibility of making completely rational decisions.

1.      Path-Dependency Decision Making

Another phenomenon that relates to Simon’s Limits of Rationality theory not covered in the Rainey text is known as “path-dependency” decision making. Path-dependency means that the decision-making process develops a trajectory of its own, whereby the initial decision is based on information and a set of assumptions and expectations that govern subsequent decisions. Subsequent decisions thus emanate from conditions in which the initial decision was made. New information or changing conditions may have little impact on subsequent decisions if the trajectory of decision making is in full swing. Sometimes people continue along a path of decision making that leads to a certain decision, even if it is not the best or most rational decision, because of their cognitive reluctance to “backtrack” to an earlier moment when they could have set off on a different decision-making path.  The term “Path Dependency” will also be included in this week’s Quiz.

G.         Organizational Theories: Contingency Theory and Adaptive Systems Theory

Beginning in the 1960s, organizational theorists began to move away from specific components of an organization such as the production process, lines of authority, formal rules and regulations, informal norms, worker psychology, incentives, and forms of decision making to focus on how the organization itself adapted to changing and complex environments. Theorists began to apply the concepts of complex organisms and open systems to understand how organizations interact with and adapt to their rapidly changing and sometimes unstable technological, social, economic, political, and cultural environments. Contingency theory emerged from the open system approach to understanding organizational adaptation. It posits that there is no theoretical “one best way” to design an organization in terms of structures and processes. Rather, organizational design must take into account contingencies, some having to do with internal factors (such as the nature of the organization’s tasks) and some relating to external factors (such as technological developments or cultural changes), if the organization is to efficiently attain its goals and produce effective outcomes.

The research on these topics noted by Rainey (pp. 38–41) led to various systems-inspired organizational theories:

14                                               Contingency theory:

                                                                 (Rainey,et al., pp. 31-36)

                          emerged from the open system approach to understanding organizational adaptation. It posits that there is no theoretical “one best way” to design an organization in terms of structures and processes.

15                               Burns & Stalker’s “Contingency adaptation”

Note: The precise term “contingency adaptation” is not used; Rainey at al. write, “…a proper adaptation of the organization to contingencies” (p. 33)

                                       (Rainey, et al., p. 33); the idea here is to note how organizations adapt their                                             processes and structures in the face of certain contingencies)

                                            In these organizations there was less emphasis on communicating up and down the chain of command, on the superior controlling subordinates’ behavior, and on strict adherence to job descriptions. There was more emphasis on networking and lateral communication, the supervisor as facilitator, and on flexible and changing work assignments.

16                                               Contingency buffering/James Thompson:

(Rainey, et al., p. 81, look for the author’s phrase: “buffering methods to provide stable conditions” and identify the buffering method to which the authors refer).

                           they use boundary-spanning units, such as inventory, personnel recruitment, and research and development, to try to create smooth flows of information and resources.

The Rainey, et al., text does not refer to Thompson’s theory by this name. In identifying “contingency buffering,” the idea is to indicate how Thompson says organizations can protect themselves from various internal (such as the “bounded rationality” of decision making) and external (such as instability in the environment) pressures. Thompson notes that, when faced with certain contingencies, organizations will try to buffer their processes, and especially their “technical cores”) from being adversely affected. When faced with different contingencies, however, such as complex environments facing rapid change and demanding immediate decisions, organizations will take a more “adaptive” or “open systems” approach, as Thompson explains, by de-centralizing their operations and creating more sub-units to more effectively respond to environmental demands (Rainey, et al., p. 81).

The application of these theories is very important, for example, in understanding the challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an organization created to respond to the external contingencies of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the sudden national awareness of devastating threats caused by changes in the international environment, such a forms of extremism, new types of attacks, and the use of technology to foment radicalism and recruit terrorists. DHS finds itself in a constant struggle to adapt its structure and processes to complex environmental changes, such as information-sharing technology, cyber threats, mutations of terrorist networks, legislative mandates, and citizens’ understanding of public value in terms of national security versus privacy equation. We will address some of the problems and attempts of the DHS to adapt to its complex environment later in this course. Here, we prepare the groundwork by addressing the important “contingencies” to which organizations must adapt:

H.         Organizational Theories Specific to Public Organization Environments

(Rainey, et al.,pp. 84-86)

All of the general organizational theories we have studied so far are, in some ways, applicable to public organizations. The Rainey text identifies additional theories that have been specifically applied to public organizations in recent years. He refers to them in the chapter on public organizations; we include three of them here as part of the overview of organizational theories.

17                                               Resource Dependence theory: (Rainey, et al., p. 85)

                     analyze how organizational managers try to obtain crucial resources from their environment, such as materials, money, people, support services, and technological knowledge.

Important for U.S. public organizations:

1) OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT (OPM): U.S. federal agencies largely depend on the OPM    

     for hiring employees.  Very often bureaucracy gets in the way of hiring (and firing) expeditiously.

2) U.S. CONGRESS: U.S. federal agencies rely on Congressional budgetary allocations for their budgets.  

For a very short video presentation on Resource Dependence theory (and its similarities and differences to Transaction Cost theory and Institutional theory, see the following video:

(Note: The approximate length of this media is 2 minutes. This is not mandatory; FYI only.)

18                                               Transaction Costs theory:

                                                         (Rainey, et al., p. 85)

                  analyze managerial decisions to purchase a needed good or service from outside, as opposed to producing it within the organization Managers may try to hold down such costs under certain conditions by merging with another organization or permanently hiring a person with whom they had been contracting.

Institutionalist theories are interesting because they compel us to look at both conscious attempts to positively standardize institutional behavior (such as introducing merit systems of advancement) and unconscious norms, attitudes, and assumptions that sometimes negatively pressure organizations to conform to a prevailing culture that might undermine an organization’s efforts or prevent positive change.  Identify below the general theory and its 3 different sub-types:

19                               Institutional (Isomorphism) theory:

                                                    (Rainey, et al., pp. 85-86)

                     Rainey, et al. describe three types of conformity or “isomorphism:”

20                                         1) Coercive:

            stems from political influence and organizational legitimacy and is often conveyed through laws, regulations, or outside agency requirements.

21                                               2) Normative:

        professional values and moral norms.


           3) Mimetic:

             occurs when organizations and other entities imitate each other, on the basis of a prevailing orthodoxy or culturally supported beliefs about the proper structures and procedures.

Using the same short USPTO readings that you used to answer Question #2, for Question 3 below decide which of the organizational theories we study this week might best explain how the problems in the agency developed and how they might be solved.  Apply a specific theory to each problem and solution and explain how it might be applicable.

Essay      Read the 3 articles about the U.S. Patent U.S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) listed under #s 7, 8, and 9 on the Reading list. Apply your new knowledge of traditional organizational theories – Rainey, et al. text and Workbook – to: (1) identify 2 specific problems at the USPTO, 2) explain how these two problems could have arisen either through the failure to apply a relevant theory or the ineffective application of strategy based on a specific theory, and (3) explain how the 2 problems might be solved by applying a specific organizational theory or theories.  Use your critical thinking skills to connect theories to problem emergence & problem solutions. There is no “correct answer” to this question; the goal here is to use your critical thinking skills to decide which of the organizational theories you are studying this week can explain problems in this case study, as well as help solve them. Do not simply indicate a theory or theories; rather, analyze how and why the theory or theories can best explain and solve a problem. The more specific you are about the details of the theories you choose for this case study, the better your answer.

             <<<< Type your answer in a WORD file from which you can cut & paste on the Quiz>>>>


Our WEEK 1 “Critical Thinking” Discussion Board is designed to help you learn to apply some of the organizational theories covered in this lesson to real-world problems in the USPTO and the Social Security Administration (SSA). By understanding the strengths and weakness of each theory, you can see why problems develop in organizations and how they might be resolved by applying theoretical propositions to organizational structure and processes.


In WEEK 2, “The Uniqueness of Public Organizations,” we take up the issue of why and how public organizations make up a distinct field of organizational studies, especially in terms of institutional and environmental factors that either make it difficult for public organizations to adapt to changes or necessitate that they make extraordinary efforts to do so.   Although all organizations – public, private, non-profit – share some similar characteristics and problems, U.S. public organizations face unique challenges specific to a representative democracy: not only must they serve the interests of a wide diversity of American citizens and the interest groups that represent them, but they are also answerable to multifaceted government organizations that are at times at odds amongst themselves.  The big question for the managers of these public organizations is: How to balance the pressures they face in their political environment to produce public value for the body of American citizens as a whole?  We take up this challenging question in Workbook 2 with the question on the debate over municipal broadband and in our Critical Thinking Discussion Board Case Study on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

[1] Theory. (2015). In Oxford online dictionary. Retrieved from

[2] Herbert Kaufman (2006), The Forest Ranger. A Study of Administrative Behavior. Special Reprint Edition. (Taylor & Francis).  First published in 1960.

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