Summerschool 2017: Organization Theory

Course content

The study of organization and organizing becomes increasingly relevant as the organizational world today is characterized by many and profound changes caused by new technology, globalization, increased competition and new ideas about management. Such changes call for more flexible organizational designs, new managerial strategies and new ways of defining, monitoring and assessing the performance of the organization. The course focuses on work organizations, both business organizations (private firms) and organizations within the public sector. Organization theory is an interdisciplinary field and the course draws on perspectives from different social science disciplines. Both, the so-called rational and natural theories are covered in the course and a number of perspectives, from the more classical such as Scientific Management and Human Relations to more recent approaches such as Open Systems and Chaordic Systems are discussed. Other views such as Social Constructionism, Psychodynamics and the Requisite Organization are also explored. Various aspects of organizations such as structure, processes and culture are covered.


A central theme of the course is organizational structure, in other words, how work in an organization is divided into jobs, departments and hierarchical levels and how coordinated effort is achieved. A number of structural forms are discussed as well as how in particular, organizational strategy, size, technology and environment influence the structure of an organization. A special theme concerns the choice between market and hierarchy in coordination of economic activity. This leads to a discussion of mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, virtual organization and hybrids between market and hierarchy such as strategic alliances and networks. Informal structure and group dynamics are also touched upon together with organizational culture comprising the values and basic assumptions of organizational members. Other themes concern organizational processes where decisions, power, leadership and motivation are the most important. Both rational, bounded rational, political and anarchic decision models are presented and power processes in organizations are discussed. Perspectives on leadership are outlined and leadership behavior and styles, value based leadership and contingency theories on leadership and change management are covered. Motivation and incentives in organizations are also essential themes where the relative significance of economic and non-economic motivations in particular is discussed. Both classical motivation theories and later content and process theories are part of the course as are the concept and function of performance related pay.


In essence, a number of ways of thinking are presented in the course which should enable the economist to think and reflect in a more professional way about the organizational contexts in which she/he will make a career. Organization theory has broad practical and vocational relevance, both for students aspiring for managerial and administrative positions in existing organizations as well as for those interested in starting their own venture.



BSc programme in Economics – elective course after 1. year
MSc programme in Economics – elective course

Tilvalgsuddannelsen i Erhvervsøkonomi - valgfag på KA delen

Learning outcome

After completing the course, the student should be able to demonstrate the following under the three sections of knowledge, skills and competencies:


  • Describe the basic principles of classical and contemporary organizational theories about structure, strategy, culture, leadership, groups, change, communication, power, decisions and motivation.

  • Explain the differences and similarities between economic perspectives on organizations and perspectives from other social science disciplines.


  • Select, justify and evaluate the applicability of these theories in real life organizational contexts.

  • Analyze and compare the theories, their strengths and weaknesses with regard to obtaining an understanding of actual organizations and practical organizational phenomena.


  • Apply relevant theory in analysis of organizational issues described in a real-life case in a written essay in a clear and coherent way.

  • Formulate and structure analytical solutions to real life organizational problems by integrating theory with case data.

The sessions will involve short lectures and discussions based on course theory and analysis and mapping of the problems and possible solutions of the real-life cases that are a part of the course syllabus. The sessions will also involve group work where the class will work in small groups on solving the questions presented on the case studies.

(1) Richard L. Daft, Jonathan Murphy, Hugh Willmott: Organization Theory and Design. An international Perspective. Second Edition. Cengage Learning. 2014. Cases/ exercises not included.

(2) Kira, M. & van Eijnatten, F.M. (2008). Socially sustainable work organizations: a chaordic systems approach. Systems Research & Behavioral Science, Vol. 25 (6), pp. 743-756.Gilley, J.W., Morris, M.L., Waite, A.M., Coates, T. & Veliquette, A. (2010).

(3) Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M. & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking. Organization Science, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 409–421

(4) Carr, A.N. & Lapp, C.A. (2009). Organization Theory and Organization Behavior: Through the Lens of Psychodynamics. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behaviour, Vol. 12 (3), pp. 381-405.

(5) Penny Dick & Steve Ellis: Introduction to Organizational Behaviour. Third Edition. London: McGraw Hill Education. 2006. pp. 84-95, 98-101 (on motivation)

(6) Stephen P. Robbins, Timothy A. Judge, Timothy T. Campell: Organizational Behaviour. Essex: Pearson Education. 2010. pp. 316-328, 341-348  (on leadership).

(7) Gilley, J.W., Morris, M.L., Waite, A.M., Coates, T. & Veliquette, A. (2010). Integrated Theoretical Model for Building Effective Teams. Advances in Developing Human Resources, Vol. 12 (1), pp. 7-28.

(8) Hultman, K. & Hultman, J. (2008). Deep Teams: Leveraging the Implicit Organization. Organization Development Journal, Vol. 26 (3), pp. 11-22.

(9) Sytse Douma & Hein Schreuder: Economic Approaches to Organizations. FT Prentice-Hall. Pearson Education. 2008. - Pages 161-178 on Transaction Costs.

(10) Bruno S. Frey & Margit Osterloh (eds.): Successful Management by Motivation. Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Berlin: Springer. 2002. Pages 7-23, 68-70

(11): Gary Dessler: Human Resource Management. Thirteenth Edition. Essex: Pearson Education. 2013. Pages 418-437 on Performance Related Pay and financial incentives.

(12) Gary Yukl: Leading Change in Organizations. In: Gary Yukl: Leadership in Organizations. Sixth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson. 2006. Page 288-307.

(13) James L. Perry: Bringing Society in: Toward a Theory of Public-Service Motivation. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.10 (2000):2: 471-488

(14) Mary Jo Hatch with Ann L. Cunliffe: Organization Theory. Modern, symbolic and postmodern perspectives. 2nd edition. 2006. Pages 175-194 on organizational culture. 

(15) Arthur G. Bedeian: The Dean’s Disease: How the Darker Side of Power Manifests Itself in the Office of the Dean. Academy of Management Learning and Education. Vol 1 no. 2, 164-173, 2002.

(16) Elliott Jaques and Stephen Clement: Executive Leadership – A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1999, pp. 53-65, 91-97 (on requisite organization theory)

(17) Coloplast A/S – Organizational Challenges in Offshoring (16 pages)

(18) Donna Klein and Marriott International (4 pages)

(19) Engstrom Auto Mirror Plant: Motivating in Good Times and Bad (8 pages)

(20) People Management Fiasco in Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd. (17 pages)

(21) Shinsei Bank: Developing an Integrated Firm (20 pages)

(22) The Treadway Tire Company: Job Dissatisfaction and High Turnover at the Lima Tire Plant (12 pages)

(23) Acer Inc: Taiwan’s Rampaging Dragon (20 pages)

(24) Safe to Say at Prudential Financial (21 pages)

(25) Whitbread PLC (24 pages)

(26) 3M: Profile of an Innovating Company (20 pages)

(27) Motivated Reasoning, Leadership and Team Performance (7 pages)

(28) Leadership Development at Goldman Sachs (23 pages)


No. 1 is sold from: Akademisk Boghandel/ Academic Books, CSS, Øster Farimagsgade 5, Building 7. Open: Monday – Friday 9.30-16.00 E-mail:

No. 2-16 will be available at Absalon for the students having signed up for the course.

No. 17-28 are case studies that will need to be purchased through the Harvard Business School Publishing Website. A special student course pack link with discounted prices will be provided to students registered for the course closer to the course period. These cases are an integrated part of the course and are a precondition for passing the exam.

None. Organization theory has interfaces with other areas such as public administration, strategic management and corporate governance.

See Absalon from late June 2017 for a specific schedule.

Timetable and venue:
To see the time and location of the lectures (partly in English):

Please press the link
-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-B5-5F17; [Name of course]”
-Select Report Type: “List – Week Days”
-Select Period: “Forår/Spring – Weeks 4-29”
Press: “ View Timetable”

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 48 hours
take-home assignment. Students can choose to answer the exam in Danish (incl Norwegian/Swedish) or in English. Language must be chosen at the course registration.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
100 % censurship
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.

To receive the top grade, the student must be able to demonstrate in an excellent manner that he or she has acquired and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 45
  • Preparation
  • 113
  • Exam
  • 48
  • English
  • 206