Organisational Theory

SOL3 Organisational Theory

Autumn 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.

    Throughout the course, via a series of lectures, group-based assignments, case excercises 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: Organizational Design
      • Intro to Organizations and Organizational Theory
      • Formal Organization
      • Informal Organization
    • Module 2: Organizational Environment
      • Global and Technological Environments
      • Institutions
      • Ecology and Competition
    • Module 3: Strategy and Change
      • Emergence, Growth and Decline of Organizations
      • Internal Determinants of Change
      • External Determinants of Change
      • Digitalization of the Workplace

  • 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 demonstrate 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 case 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.
    • can take responsibility for their own learning

  • 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.

    Case discussion and analysis session.  During the semester, the students will work in groups on an assignment that synthesizes the theme of the respective week.The group works actively on the assignment during the sessions, and have the opportunity to ask questions to the lecturers and student assistants. The groups submit their assignment via Canvas. 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.

    Group-based Assignment : during the course the students, in groups of 4 students (depending on the student number some groups might be smaller), will work and hand in a group-based assignment.  (60% 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, who will provide feedback on this draft.

  • Required prerequisites


  • Requirements for course approval

    For course approval the studenthave to participate and hand in an approved case assignment in at least 5 of the case analysis and discussion sessions.

  • Assessment

    2 Multiple Choice Exams (20% each) and group-based assignment, groups of 4 students (60%).

    The group based assignment is handed out in Week 40 (after the second multiple choice exam).  Students write the assignment in 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


ECTS Credits
Teaching language

Autumn, offered Autumn 2020

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).

Please note: Due to the present corona situation, please expect parts of this course description to be changed before the autumn semester starts. Particularly, but not exclusively, this relates to teaching methods, mandatory requirements and assessment.

Course responsible

Professor Bram Timmermans, Department of Strategy and Management. 

Assistant Professor Peter Kalum Schou, Department of Strategy and Management