What Is Evolution of Organization Theory?


Vincent White

Organization theory is a field of study that examines the behavior of individuals and groups within organizations. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws on concepts from sociology, psychology, economics, and management. The study of organization theory has evolved over time as researchers have sought to better understand the dynamics of organizations and how they function.

The Classical Perspective

The classical perspective was the earliest approach to organization theory and emerged in the late 19th century. This perspective focused on increasing efficiency by optimizing job designs, work processes, and control mechanisms. Scientific management was a key concept within this perspective, which emphasized the use of data to optimize production processes.

The bureaucratic model was also developed during this period, which emphasized clear hierarchies of authority and division of labor. The classic perspective was popular during this period because it provided a clear framework for organizing large-scale industrial operations.

The Human Relations Perspective

During the 1930s, researchers began to shift away from the classical perspective towards a more human-oriented approach. This perspective focused on understanding how social and psychological factors influence organizational behavior.

The Hawthorne Studies were influential in shaping this perspective. Researchers found that employee productivity increased not only when their work conditions were improved but also when they received attention from management. This finding highlighted the importance of social factors in organizational behavior.

The Contingency Perspective

In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers began to question whether there was a single best way to organize an organization. The contingency perspective emerged as a response to this question and emphasized that different organizational structures are effective in different situations.

This approach suggested that organizations should be flexible and adaptable in response to changing circumstances. Researchers began to examine how factors such as technology, size, and external environment impact organizational effectiveness.

The Resource Dependence Perspective

During the 1980s, researchers began to recognize the impact of external factors on organizational behavior. The resource dependence perspective emphasizes that organizations must rely on external resources, such as funding and information, to survive.

This perspective suggests that organizations must actively manage their relationships with external stakeholders to ensure that they have access to necessary resources. This approach has led to an increased focus on strategic planning and collaboration with external partners.

The Institutional Perspective

In the 1990s, researchers began to recognize the impact of societal norms and values on organizational behavior. The institutional perspective emphasizes that organizations must conform to societal expectations in order to be legitimate.

This approach suggests that organizations must balance their own internal goals with external expectations. Researchers began to examine how institutional pressures influence organizational behavior, including issues such as corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

The Complexity Perspective

The complexity perspective is a newer approach to organization theory that emerged in the 21st century. This perspective recognizes that organizations are complex systems with multiple interdependent components.

This approach emphasizes the importance of understanding the interactions between different components within an organization, including individuals, groups, and processes. Researchers have begun to examine how complex systems theory can be applied to organizational behavior and management.


Organization theory has evolved significantly over time as researchers have sought to better understand the dynamics of organizations. Each perspective has contributed important insights into organizational behavior, from optimizing production processes to managing external relationships and balancing internal goals with societal expectations.

As organizations continue to evolve in response to technological advances and changing social norms, it is likely that organization theory will continue to evolve as well. By staying up-to-date with emerging research in this field, managers can ensure that their organizations remain effective and adaptable over time.