Term Paper: Organization Theory Management

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Organization Theory

Management Theory

Management, in general, has become a sine qua non-matter for today's development of activity of any kind. Given the complexity and importance of activities nowadays, it is imperative to use management related issues in dealing with these activities and all they comprise. Hence, one can observe the importance of management in general and of organization in particular. However, without a strong theoretical basis, one cannot apply management processes on a successful level.

Robert Sutton and Barry Staw have brought their contribution to the management literature, by studying organizational behavior mostly, and by expressing their opinion on what management theory is, what it is not, and what it should be. In their 1995 book entitled What Theory Is Not, the authors agree upon the fact that there is practically no consensus regarding what constitutes theory, but there is, however, some consensus regarding what theory is not.

Regarding the subject of what theory is, the authors recommend four dimensions that must be taken into consideration when trying to comment on this situation. These dimensions are expressed in their book's chapters: Is a model theory? Is a typology theory? Does the strength of a theory depend on how interesting it is? Is falsifiability required for the existence of a theory? (Sutton & Staw, 1995).

These four chapters that discuss the four dimensions are included in the book section that discusses upon what theory is. The first subject under discussion refers to management models and to the idea of them being a theory. As mentioned in the book, there is no clear consensus regarding the opinion of management models being theory. The reason for this is the fact that management models in general are considered quite controversial and discussions upon the subject usually lead to various conclusions. For example, "some people use them as important tools for analyzing businesses and developing strategies. Others call them buzzwords, used by consultants to boost their profile" (Recklies, 2001).

In my opinion, models cannot be considered strong theory. Even the controversy created around the subject supports my opinion. This opinion is based on the fact that models basically only reproduce reality in a simplified manner, as they "show those elements of reality - that can be a business or an industry - that are relevant for analysis of a certain problem. Furthermore, models normally limit the number of elements included, in order to reduce complexity" (Recklies, 2001). Management models usually leave aside certain elements that not relevant. Excluding certain elements is another factor for which these models cannot be considered strong theory. In addition to this, in order to perform an accurate analysis on a certain matter, one should take several models into consideration, given the fact that these models do not include all elements of a situation.

Another fact for which management models cannot be considered strong theory is the fact that they were created following certain factors that characterized the situation at a certain point. But these factors change in time and they are no longer applicable to newer situations. For example, "in our time, a single e-start-up can revolutionise the business models of whole industries. That makes many of the old models limited in their validity" (Recklies, 2001).

Also, such models are considered to be just a matter of fashion. There are several authors that propose new management models based on successful businesses, models introduced and promoted as successful for any type of company and for any situation. This perception is clearly incorrect, given the fact that a business model cannot be applied to any type of situation, by any type of company, and at any time. Even more, as stated above, it is necessary to use several models for the same situation, in order to get a more precise opinion. Therefore, models cannot be considered strong theory, but good indicators instead, as they are useful when trying to make a decision.

Regarding typology and if it is or it is not a theory, there is no consensus either. However, the situation of typologies is slightly different from that of models and their relation with theory. Even if typologies cannot be considered theory on their own, they have close connections with theory, influencing it is the following ways:

Typologies are very useful for linking empirical information to abstract formal models. In other words, typologies link existent theory to proven practice, represented by these models that, as mentioned above, reproduce reality, reproduce actual facts that have happened in certain situations and that can be applied to similar situations. However, this proves that typologies are only a link, and not an actual strong theory

Typologies can help develop and expand theory. This means that typologies can be used to determine causes that are responsible for the emergence and development of a certain situation, and to determine the factors that influence the course of that specific situation. Also, typologies, in this case, can help determine what the outcome of a situation could be. However, given the fact that they cannot be applied to any type of situation, they cannot be considered strong theory

Typologies help in testing the existent theory. In other words, "typologies can help identify good cases to study and to engage in counterfactuals" (Rothman, 2004).

Therefore, typologies cannot really be considered strong theory, as they rely on existent theory, they reflect it. Typologies cannot exist by themselves, they cannot be useful if they are not backed by strong theory. They only support theory, and help develop, expand, and test theory.

If there is no consensus regarding what theory is, there is consensus regarding what theory is not. It is considered that references, data, lists of variables or constructs, diagrams, hypotheses or predictions are not strong theory. Regarding references, citing theoretical work that has already been proven and accepted does not replace logical argument. Data does not explain situations, it only describes it. The same situation goes for diagrams that only come to support certain proven theory. Also, hypotheses or predictions do not meet the requirements of being strong theory, meaning they do not offer an explanation for which a certain situation has occurred.

Based on these arguments, the two authors Robert Sutton and Barry Staw have determined certain requirements that strong theory must meet. The characteristics of strong theory are:

Strong theory is simple and interconnected

Strong theory provides logical argument regarding the situation under discussion

Strong theory includes past theoretical work on a certain degree

Strong theory answers to queries of why Strong theory is mostly representational and verbal (Sutton & Staw, 1995).

One of the most important attributes of strong theory is simplicity. The set of research ideas is very reduced. The ideas that form the basis of the research are quite simple, leading to more complex situations, and expanding the directions in which the ideas can be studied.

Another important characteristic through which one can make the difference between strong theory and weak theory is interconnectedness. Strong theory must explain interrelations between different phenomena. In addition to this, strong theory is also responsible for explaining the causes that determine certain situations to occur, the factors that influence the situations, and the outcome of the situation.

However, interconnectedness is not enough. This characteristic must be taken to the next level for a theory to be considered strong theory. In other words, strong theory should provide logical arguments that are able to explain "the nature of causal relationships, identifying what comes first as well as the timing of such events" (Sutton & Staw, 1995).

As mentioned above reference do not constitute strong theory. However, strong theory must include past theoretical work in order to back the logical argument discussed above. If new work that proves the logical argument is supported by past theoretical work, this ads seriousness, thickness, and importance to the theory.

However, the most important requirement that strong theory should meet is the fact that it must provide pertinent answers to queries of why. These queries include: "why empirical results occur through causal reasoning, why a particular set of variables are expected to be strong predictors, why a phenomenon occurs and plays out in a particular manner, why, and under what conditions, is the proposition or hypothesis most likely and least likely to hold" (Sutton & Staw, 1995). If a theory is not able to answer such questions, then it must be a weak and incomplete theory. Strong theory usually includes what is considered to be weak theory. Weak theory includes data, lists of variables, and hypotheses. These types of weak theory are used in strong theory to support certain logical arguments.

And last but not least, strong theory is usually representational and verbal. This attribute of strong theory is in strong relation with the first attribute discussed above, that of simplicity. The simplicity and clarity of the arguments of strong theory must be able to be represented in graphical form. This is where diagrams, which are considered to be weak theory, interfere.

In addition to these requirements… [END OF PREVIEW]

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