Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice

Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice

Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice

Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice

Synopsis

This book has rightly been described as a "classic" in the history of organizational theory. First published in 1965 it was then compared in significance to the Hawthorne studies; it was a major contribution to the devlopment of contingency theory and our understanding of the relationshipbetween technology and organizations. The book stood in marked contrast to the traditions of scientific management. Combining detailed empirical research and a pioneering analytical framework it suggested that technology and production systems played acrucial role in shaping effective organizational structures. In doing so Woodwardoffered lasting insights into issues of levels of hierarchy and spans of management control - issues that today might be discussed in terms of "delayering" and "process re-engineering". Not surprisingly Woodward's work was a springboard for much subsequent research and many of her specific observations have been widely debated and challenged. Yet, as Sandra Dawson and Dorothy Wedderburn write in their Introduction, "the main thesis of the book is well known...however, this is abook where to know its main thesis is no substitute for reading the book itself. Joan Woodward's ideas remain one of the cornerstones of our knowledge of our organizations."

Excerpt

The main thesis of this book is well known. It is that industrial organizations which design their formal organizational structures to fit the type of production technology they employ are likely to be commercially successful. To quote Joan Woodward's preface: 'Commercially successful firms seemed to be those in which function and form were complementary.'

However, this is a book where to know its main thesis is no substitute for reading the book itself. It lives up to its title Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice possessing, as it does, interest and relevance both for intending students of organizations, as well as for anyone who is practically involved in industry as manager or employer. To appreciate the full significance of the work, it is necessary to understand something of its place in history, both in terms of why it was that Woodward embarked upon the research which forms the basis of the book in the first place, as well as in terms of its contribution to subsequent developments in organization theory. This introductory essay aims to do three things: the first is to summarize the development of Joan Woodward's thinking, both as displayed in this book and in her subsequent work; secondly to summarize and examine the major criticisms levelled at her work; and finally to provide a brief account of how organization theory has developed in the post Woodward era.

I. JOAN WOODWARD'S WORK

The reason Joan Woodward embarked on the research from which she developed her thesis was that in the early fifties she was teaching management courses at what was then the South East Essex College of Technology . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.