Organizational Theory

Early Contributors to Organization Theory

The origin of organization theory Opens in new window can be traced back to antiquity. It may be comforting to know we are not the first to contemplate questions about how best to organize people and tasks.

Rulers and administrators of powerful states have always needed to adopt some organizing principles in order to accomplish their aims.

Evidence of the use of the well-recognized principles of organization theory can be found from the following sources:

1.     The Holy Bible

In the Holy Bible, issues relating to organization theory were addressed for example, Mose’s father-in-law, Jethro, advised Moses to delegate responsibility to the lower level in the hierarchy,

“Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee, for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou are not able to perform in thyself alone … Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people able men … and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens; And let them judge the people at all seasons; that every great matter they shall bring unto thee but every small matter they shall judge; so shall it be easier for thyself and they shall bear the burden with thee”.

keeping this advice of his father-in-law, Moses originated the principle of division of labor in 400 B.C.

2.    The Organization of the Roman Catholic Church

One of the most enduring and successful models of organization structure Opens in new window is the simple hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church Opens in new window. Its simple, five-level design of the organization structure has proven effective from the life time of Jesus Christ Opens in new window to the present day which is more than 2000 years old.

The authority is essentially centralized in Vatican, Rome Opens in new window and the authority moves downward from the pope to cardinals to archbishops to bishops and finally to parish priests Opens in new window. The Church has lakhs of priests and a billion faithful who form one organization – The Roman Catholic Church.

3.    Public Life in ancient Greece

It is a fact that the term organization is derived from the Greek word organon which means a “tool” or an “instrument”. Public life in ancient Greece Opens in new window was built around systems and procedures which create conditions of efficiency and reliability of performance.

4.     The Chinese State

Bureaucracy Opens in new window as an organizational form was an outstanding feature of the Chinese state. The official bureaucratic hierarchy which China developed over the centuries was sustained by the shared values promulgated by Confucius Opens in new window.

5.     Military Organizations

The other contributors are the organization of military forces. The Babylonians Opens in new window had a code for incentive wage plans in 1800 B.C. etc., and contributed to the development and refinement of organization theory.

The most important milestone in terms of its impact on organization theory was the Industrial Revolution Opens in new window that began in Great Britain spread to the United States of America and to British Colonies throughout the world.

Industrial Revolution is a word used to describe a number of changes which took place in England between 1760 and 1850. It brought about far reaching changes in the economic life of people. Numerous inventions took place during this period which changed the entire system of production and distribution.

The use of machines involved a change in the methods of industrial organization and brought about a change from the domestic system to the factory system of production involving large scale and complex division of labor. The discovery of steam as an important source of power helped to increase the production many times over.

The use of machines necessitated large amount of capital which led to concentration of economic power and growth of large enterprises. The Industrial Revolution Opens in new window had two major elements that contributed to the growth of organization theory:

  1. Machine power replacing to a large extent the human power and
  2. the widespread creation of factories.

These developments had an impact on organization design and structures to facilitate efficient large scale manufacturing process.