Organisational Theory

SOL3 Organisational Theory

Vår 2020

  • Topics

    The ongoing technological development, increased global competition, and complexity of organizational life forces managers to think differently on how to organize their business to achieve their strategy. However, changes tend to be rather unsystematic. The inability to consider organizational design, or failing to adapt to and implement changes, may lead to internal misalignment, causing lack of co-ordination and role confusion, resulting in slow decision-making, but also a poor fit with a consistently changing external environment. Therefore, understanding organizational theory is necessary for any future manager, probably now more than ever before.

    Throughout the course, via a series of lectures, group-based assignments and self-study, the students are presented to topics that that help them to understand how organizations are designed, how they function,and how they affected and are affected by the environment in which they operate.

    Topics up for discussion are:

    • Module 1: Organization and its environment
      •  Stakeholders and Corporate Governance
      •  Environmental uncertainty   
      • Inter-organizational collaboration
    • Module 2: Organizational Design
      • Formal and Informal Organizational Structures
      • Organizational Culture
      • Implications of technology on structure
      • Strategy and Structure
    • Module 3: Organizational Change
      • Types and forms of organizational change
      • Emergence, Growth and Decline of Organizations.
      • Decision-making and learning
      • Innovation and Creativity
      • Conflict and Power in organizations

  • Learning outcome

    The purpose of this course is to offer a setting where the student can get acquainted with knowledge, insights, and skills required to analyze and understand the functioning of organizations. This will be accomplished through the introduction of major topics, perspectives and theories within the field of "organization theory", a large and multidisciplinary body of scholarly work with its origin in sociology, economics and business management.

    Because organizations are a ubiquitous phenomenon in the real world, organization theory is of importance for people and managers in all organizations varying from small to large organization, in private, public and non-profit sectors. As such, the aim of the course is not only for the student to understand the theoretical development within the field of organization theory, but also the practical applications in real public and nonprofit management contexts. Students are encouraged to apply the theories and concepts covered in this course to their own experiences.

    Knowledge - upon successful completion the student

    • can demonstrate to have knowledge and understanding of central themes, theories, processes, tools and methodologies within the field of organization theory.
    • can demonstrate to be familiar with research in the field of organization theory.
    • will have an academic basis that prepares for future studies on organization theory.
    • will have a critical and reflective understanding on the predictive power of the theories introduced in the course.
    • can demonstrated to have reflective approach to real-life organizational problems and challenges.

    Skills - upon successful completion the student can

    • apply research findings within the field of organization theory on practical and theoretical issues.
    • reflect on their own academic practice and adjust this practice under academic supervision.
    • locate, select, organize, and document information on a business caser and formulate a relevant problem formulation.
    • apply the relevant tools, techniques and forms of expression

    General competences - upon successful completion the student

    • can plan and execute a variety of tasks and projects that extend over time, alone and in groups, and in line with ethical requirements and guidelines
    • can communicate key subject matter as theories, issues and solutions both in writing, orally and through other relevant forms of expression.
    • can exchange views and experiences with others with backgrounds in the field or organization theory and thereby contribute to the development of good practice.



    Formålet med kurset er at studenten skal bli kjent med den kunnskapen og de ferdighetene som skal til for å analysere og forstå organisasjoners virkemåte. Det vil bli gitt en innføring i viktige temaer, perspektiver og teorier innenfor faget organisasjonsteori, et stort og tverrfaglig felt med røtter i fagene sosiologi, økonomi og bedriftsledelse.

    Organisasjoner finnes overalt i den virkelige verden, og organisasjonsteori er viktig for alle som arbeider i organisasjoner, enten organisasjonene er små eller store, og enten de er private, offentlige eller ideelle. Målet med kurset er derfor ikke bare å gi studentene en forståelse av hvordan organisasjonsteorien har vokst fram over tid, men også å vise hvordan faget kan anvendes i det virkelige liv av ledere i offentlig og ideell virksomhet. Studentene oppmuntres til å anvende teoriene og begrepene som dekkes i kurset, på egne erfaringer.

    Kunnskap: Når studenten har fullført og bestått kurset, vil han/hun

    • kunne vise at han/hun har kunnskap om og forståelse av sentrale temaer, teorier, prosesser, verktøy og metoder innenfor faget organisasjonsteori
    • kunne vise at han/hun kjenner til forskningen innenfor organisasjonsteorien
    • ha et akademisk grunnlag for videre studier innen organisasjonsteori
    • ha en kritisk og reflektert forståelse av prediksjonskraften til teoriene som presenteres i kurset
    • kunne vise at han/hun har en reflektert tilnærming til organisasjonsproblemer og -utfordringer i det virkelige liv

    Ferdigheter: Når studenten har fullført og bestått kurset, vil han/hun

    • kunne bruke forskningsresultater fra organisasjonsteorien på praktiske og teoretiske problemstillinger
    • kunne reflektere over sin egen akademiske praksis og justere denne praksisen under faglig veiledning
    • finne, velge ut, organisere og dokumentere informasjon om en virksomhetscase og formulere en relevant problemstilling
    • anvende de relevante verktøyene, teknikkene og formidlingsmåtene

    Generell kompetanse: Når studenten har fullført og bestått kurset, vil han/hun

    • kunne planlegge og gjennomføre ulike arbeidsoppgaver og prosjekter som strekker seg over tid, alene og i grupper, og i tråd med etiske krav og retningslinjer
    • kunne formidle sentralt fagstoff som teorier, problemstillinger og løsninger både skriftlig, muntlig og på andre relevante måter
    • kunne utveksle synspunkter og erfaringer med andre med bakgrunn fra faget organisasjonsteori og slik bidra til utvikling av god praksis

  • Teaching

    Lectures: During these lectures, the lecturers go in depth with the topic of the day using examples, illustrate cases, and interact with the student audience using different approaches (including IT tools that allows the student to communicate in different forms with the lecturer). In order to obtain the necessary depth in the topic, we expect that the students have prepared before attending the lectures.

    Group-based Assignments: during the course the students, in groups of 3-4 students, will work and hand in three group-based assignment. There are two type of group-based assignment:

    • Group work session assignment (2 sessions - participation necessary for course approval)
    • Group based assignement (50% of the final grade)

    Group work sessions (2x)

    During two group work session the student groups work on an assignment that synthesizes the overarching theme of the respective module (i.e. the internal features of the organization and interaction with the external environment). The students meet up in the NHH Aula and after a short introduction the groups work on an assignment they receive during the session.

    The group works actively on the assignment during the session, and have the opportunity to ask questions to the lecturers and student assistants. Within one week after the group work session, the groups submit their assignment to the student assistant. The student assistant offers feedback and assess the overall quality of the assignment. In case the assignment does not live up to the minimum requirements, the groups have the opportunity to revise and resubmit this assignment.

    To obtain Course Approval all individual members have to participate in the group work sessions (we register attendance) and receive an approval of both assignments by the student assistants.

    Group-Based Assignment (50% of the final grade)

    As a group-based assignment, the group analyses an event or phenomenon in a case-based organizational analysis. The students have to hand in a draft version (80-90-100 draft) to the student assistant. The students present their assignment (max 10 minutes) in a student seminar for a selected group of fellow students and the student assistants. During this seminar, the group received feedback on the presentation and draft. After the seminar, the group can make the necessary revisions and upload the assignment on Wiseflow. The group-based assignment counts towards 50% of the final grade. Submission dates will be listed in the course calendar.

    Self-study: the total expected workload on a 7.5 ECTS averages 210 hours; subtracting lectures, group-based assignments and seminars leaves a considerable amount of hours for self-study, that is preparing for lectures and exams.

  • Required prerequisites


  • Requirements for course approval

    For course approval the student-groups have to:

    • Participate in the group work session (we register attendance)
    • Obtain approval for the two group work session assignments
    • Deliver draft of the group-based assignment and deliver a presentation during the student seminar in Week 44.

  • Assessment

    Due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, the assessment for the spring semester 2020 has been changed:

    Individual home exam. Length of exam: 7 hours. Conducted in this manner:

    1. Students are handed out a case and given 2 hours to prepare this case
    2. After the first two hours, students are handed out exam questions to answer in essay format during the following 5 hours. Max. 3 000 words.


    Exam dates have not been changed.


    Original assessment form spring 2020 – cancelled:

    3 hours written school exam (50%) and group-based assignment (50%).

    The group based assignment is handed out at the beginning of the semester. Students may write the group-based assignment and answer the written exam in Norwegian or English.

  • Grading Scale

    Grading scale: A-F  

  • Literature

    Jones, G. (2013) "Organizational Theory, Design and Change"  Pearson Publishing

    Extra reading material will be uploaded on Canvas



Autumn, offered Autumn 2019

Written school exam is offered both semesters (according to Regulations for Full-time Study Programmes at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), section 3-1).

Course responsible

Bram Timmermans, Department of Strategy and Management.