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Structure of the United Nations UN Institutions.svg
Structure of the United Nations

An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company, an institution, or an association – comprising one or more people and having a particular purpose.


The word is derived from the Greek word organon, which means tool or instrument, musical instrument, and organ.


There are a variety of legal types of organizations, including corporations, governments, non-governmental organizations, political organizations, international organizations, armed forces, charities, not-for-profit corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, and educational institutions etc.

A hybrid organization is a body that operates in both the public sector and the private sector simultaneously, fulfilling public duties and developing commercial market activities.

A voluntary association is an organization consisting of volunteers. Such organizations may be able to operate without legal formalities, depending on jurisdiction, including informal clubs or coordinating bodies with a goal in mind which they may express in the form of an manifesto, mission statement, or in an informal manner reflected in what they do because remember every action done by an organization both legal and illegal reflects a goal in mind. [1] [2]

Organizations may also operate secretly or illegally in the case of secret societies, criminal organizations and resistance movements. And in some cases may have obstacles from other organizations (ex: MLK's organization) [3] but what makes an organization an organization is not the paperwork that makes it official but to be an organization there must be four things:

  1. A goal in mind
  2. A leader or committee making the decision
  3. action involved
  4. communication and members.

But what makes an organization recognized by the government is either filling out Incorporation (business) or recognition in the form of either societal pressure (ex: Advocacy group), causing concerns (ex: Resistance movement) or being considered the spokesperson of a group of people subject to negotiation (ex: the Polisario Front being recognized as the sole representative of the Sahawri people and forming a partially recognized state.)

Compare the concept of social groups, which may include non-organizations. [4]

Organizations and institutions can be synonymous, but Jack Knight writes that organizations are a narrow version of institutions or represent a cluster of institutions; the two are distinct in the sense that organizations contain internal institutions (that govern interactions between the members of the organizations). [5]


Diagram of the Federal Government and American Union, 1864. Diagram of the Federal Government and American Union edit.jpg
Diagram of the Federal Government and American Union, 1864.

The study of organizations includes a focus on optimising organizational structure. According to management science, most human organizations fall roughly into four types:[ citation needed ]

Committees or juries

These consist of a group of peers who decide as a group, perhaps by voting. The difference between a jury and a committee is that the members of the committee are usually assigned to perform or lead further actions after the group comes to a decision, whereas members of a jury come to a decision. In common law countries, legal juries render decisions of guilt, liability and quantify damages; juries are also used in athletic contests, book awards and similar activities. Sometimes a selection committee functions like a jury. In the Middle Ages, juries in continental Europe were used to determine the law according to consensus among local notables.

Committees are often the most reliable way to make decisions. Condorcet's jury theorem proved that if the average member votes better than a roll of dice, then adding more members increases the number of majorities that can come to a correct vote (however correctness is defined). The problem is that if the average member is subsequently worse than a roll of dice, the committee's decisions grow worse, not better; therefore, staffing is crucial.

Parliamentary procedure, such as Robert's Rules of Order, helps prevent committees from engaging in lengthy discussions without reaching decisions.


This organizational structure promotes internal competition. Inefficient components of the organization starve, while effective ones get more work. Everybody is paid for what they actually do, and so runs a tiny business that has to show a profit, or they are fired.

Companies who utilize this organization type reflect a rather one-sided view of what goes on in ecology. It is also the case that a natural ecosystem has a natural border - ecoregions do not, in general, compete with one another in any way, but are very autonomous.

The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline talks about functioning as this type of organization in this external article from The Guardian . By:Bastian Batac De Leon.

Matrix organization

This organizational type assigns each worker two bosses in two different hierarchies. One hierarchy is "functional" and assures that each type of expert in the organization is well-trained, and measured by a boss who is super-expert in the same field. The other direction is "executive" and tries to get projects completed using the experts. Projects might be organized by products, regions, customer types, or some other schemes.

As an example, a company might have an individual with overall responsibility for products X and Y, and another individual with overall responsibility for engineering, quality control, etc. Therefore, subordinates responsible for quality control of project X will have two reporting lines. The United States aerospace industries were first to officially use this organizational structure after it emerged in the early 1960s. [6]

Pyramids or hierarchical

A hierarchy exemplifies an arrangement with a leader who leads other individual members of the organization. This arrangement is often associated with basis that there are enough imagine a real pyramid, if there are not enough stone blocks to hold up the higher ones, gravity would irrevocably bring down the monumental structure. So one can imagine that if the leader does not have the support of his subordinates, the entire structure will collapse. Hierarchies were satirized in The Peter Principle (1969), a book that introduced hierarchiology and the saying that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."


In the social sciences, organizations are the object of analysis for a number of disciplines, such as sociology, economics, [7] political science, psychology, management, and organizational communication. The broader analysis of organizations is commonly referred to as organizational structure, organizational studies, organizational behaviour, or organization analysis. A number of different perspectives exist, some of which are compatible:

Sociology can be defined as the science of the institutions of modernity; specific institutions serve a function, akin to the individual organs of a coherent body. In the social and political sciences in general, an "organization" may be more loosely understood as the planned, coordinated and purposeful action of human beings working through collective action to reach a common goal or construct a tangible product. This action is usually framed by formal membership and form (institutional rules). Sociology distinguishes the term organization into planned formal and unplanned informal (i.e. spontaneously formed) organizations. Sociology analyses organizations in the first line from an institutional perspective. In this sense, organization is an enduring arrangement of elements. These elements and their actions are determined by rules so that a certain task can be fulfilled through a system of coordinated division of labor.

Economic approaches to organizations also take the division of labor as a starting point. The division of labor allows for (economies of) specialization. Increasing specialization necessitates coordination. From an economic point of view, markets and organizations are alternative coordination mechanisms for the execution of transactions. [7]

An organization is defined by the elements that are part of it (who belongs to the organization and who does not?), its communication (which elements communicate and how do they communicate?), its autonomy (which changes are executed autonomously by the organization or its elements?), and its rules of action compared to outside events (what causes an organization to act as a collective actor?).

By coordinated and planned cooperation of the elements, the organization is able to solve tasks that lie beyond the abilities of the single elements. The price paid by the elements is the limitation of the degrees of freedom of the elements. Advantages of organizations are enhancement (more of the same), addition (combination of different features) and extension. Disadvantages can be inertness (through co-ordination) and loss of interaction.

Among the theories that are or have been influential are:


A leader in a formal, hierarchical organization, is appointed to a managerial position and has the right to command and enforce obedience by virtue of the authority of his position. However, he must possess adequate personal attributes to match his authority, because authority is only potentially available to him. In the absence of sufficient personal competence, a manager may be confronted by an emergent leader who can challenge his role in the organization and reduce it to that of a figurehead. However, only authority of position has the backing of formal sanctions. It follows that whoever wields personal influence and power can legitimize this only by gaining a formal position in the hierarchy, with commensurate authority. [8]

Formal organizations

An organization that is established as a means for achieving defined objectives has been referred to as a formal organization. Its design specifies how goals are subdivided and reflected in subdivisions of the organization. Divisions, departments, sections, positions, jobs, and tasks make up this work structure. Thus, the formal organization is expected to behave impersonally in regard to relationships with clients or with its members. According to Weber's definition, entry and subsequent advancement is by merit or seniority. Each employee receives a salary and enjoys a degree of tenure that safeguards him from the arbitrary influence of superiors or of powerful clients. The higher his position in the hierarchy, the greater his presumed expertise in adjudicating problems that may arise in the course of the work carried out at lower levels of the organization. It is this bureaucratic structure that forms the basis for the appointment of heads or chiefs of administrative subdivisions in the organization and endows them with the authority attached to their position. [9]

Informal organizations

In contrast to the appointed head or chief of an administrative unit, a leader emerges within the context of the informal organization that underlies the formal structure. The informal organization expresses the personal objectives and goals of the individual membership. Their objectives and goals may or may not coincide with those of the formal organization. The informal organization represents an extension of the social structures that generally characterize human life – the spontaneous emergence of groups and organizations as ends in themselves. [9]

In prehistoric times, man was preoccupied with his personal security, maintenance, protection, and survival. Now man spends a major portion of his waking hours working for organizations. His need to identify with a community that provides security, protection, maintenance, and a feeling of belonging continues unchanged from prehistoric times. This need is met by the informal organization and its emergent, or unofficial, leaders. [8]

Leaders emerge from within the structure of the informal organization. Their personal qualities, the demands of the situation, or a combination of these and other factors attract followers who accept their leadership within one or several overlay structures. Instead of the authority of position held by an appointed head or chief, the emergent leader wields influence or power. Influence is the ability of a person to gain cooperation from others by means of persuasion or control over rewards. Power is a stronger form of influence because it reflects a person's ability to enforce action through the control of a means of punishment. [8]

The interplay between formal and informal organizations

As most organizations operate through a mix of formal and informal mechanisms, organization science scholars have paid attention to the type of interplay between formal and informal organizations. [10] On the one hand, some have argued that formal and informal organizations operate as substitutes as one type of organization would decrease the advantages of using the other one. For instance, if parties trust each other the use of a formal contract is unnecessary or even detrimental to the relationship. [11] On the other hand, other scholars have suggested that formal and informal organizations can complement each other. For instance, formal mechanisms of control can pave the way for the development of relational norms. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

A hierarchical organization is an organizational structure where every entity in the organization, except one, is subordinate to a single other entity. This arrangement is a form of a hierarchy. In an organization, the hierarchy usually consists of a singular/group of power at the top with subsequent levels of power beneath them. This is the dominant mode of organization among large organizations; most corporations, governments, criminal enterprises, and organized religions are hierarchical organizations with different levels of management, power or authority. For example, the broad, top-level overview of the general organization of the Catholic Church consists of the Pope, then the Cardinals, then the Archbishops, and so on.

Social group Two or more humans who interact with one another

In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Other theorists disagree however, and are wary of definitions which stress the importance of interdependence or objective similarity. Instead, researchers within the social identity tradition generally define it as "a group is defined in terms of those who identify themselves as members of the group." Regardless, social groups come in a myriad of sizes and varieties. For example, a society can be viewed as a large social group.

In communication studies, organizational communication is a field of study, that focuses on the communication and information flow within organizations through different roles of the media. The flow of communication within the members, individuals and organizations could be either formal or informal.

Institution Structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community

Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to mechanisms which govern the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community, and are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior. According to Geoffrey M. Hodgson, it is misleading to say that an institution is a form of behavior. Instead, Hodgson states that institutions are "integrated systems of rules that structure social interactions".

Political sociology Branch of sociology

Political sociology is concerned with the sociological analysis of political phenomena ranging from the State and civil society to the family, investigating topics such as citizenship, social movements, and the sources of social power. The lineage of this discipline is typically traced from such thinkers as Montesquieu, Smith and Ferguson through the founding fathers of sociology – Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber – to such contemporary theorists as Anthony Giddens, Jurgen Habermas and Michael Mann.

Structural functionalism In sociology, sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability

Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is "a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability".

Organizational theory

Organizational theory consists of many approaches to organizational analysis. Organizations are defined as social units comprising people who are managed in such a way as to enable them to meet organizational needs, pursue collective goals, and adapt to a changing organizational environment. In the early 20th century, theories of organizations initially took a rational perspective but have since become more diverse.

New institutionalism or neo-institutionalism is an approach to the study of institutions that focuses on the constraining and enabling effects of formal and informal rules on the behavior of individuals and groups.

An organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims.

Social structure Sociological classification of human societies according to their social characteristics

In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of individuals. Likewise, society is believed to be grouped into structurally-related groups or sets of roles, with different functions, meanings, or purposes. Examples of social structure include family, religion, law, economy, and class. It contrasts with "social system", which refers to the parent structure in which these various structures are embedded. Thus, social structures significantly influence larger systems, such as economic systems, legal systems, political systems, cultural systems, etc. Social structure can also be said to be the framework upon which a society is established. It determines the norms and patterns of relations between the various institutions of the society.

A formal organization is an organization with a fixed set of rules of intra-organization procedures and structures. As such, it is usually set out in writing, with a language of rules that ostensibly leave little discretion for interpretation. In some societies and in some organizations, such rules may be strictly followed; in others, they may be little more than an empty formalism.

A heterarchy is a system of organization where the elements of the organization are unranked (non-hierarchical) or where they possess the potential to be ranked a number of different ways. Definitions of the term vary among the disciplines: in social and information sciences, heterarchies are networks of elements in which each element shares the same "horizontal" position of power and authority, each playing a theoretically equal role. In biological taxonomy, however, the requisite features of heterarchy involve, for example, a species sharing, with a species in a different family, a common ancestor which it does not share with members of its own family. This is theoretically possible under principles of "horizontal gene transfer".

Index of sociology articles Wikipedia list article

This is an index of sociology articles. For a shorter list, see List of basic sociology topics.

A contingency theory is an organizational theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation. Contingent leaders are flexible in choosing and adapting to succinct strategies to suit change in situation at a particular period in time in the running of the organization.

In sociology and organizational studies, institutional theory is a theory on the deeper and more resilient aspects of social structure. It considers the processes by which structures, including schemes, rules, norms, and routines, become established as authoritative guidelines for social behavior. Different components of institutional theory explain how these elements are created, diffused, adopted, and adapted over space and time; and how they fall into decline and disuse.

In sociology, a social organization is a pattern of relationships between and among individuals and social groups.

The informal organization is the interlocking social structure that governs how people work together in practice. It is the aggregate of norms, personal and professional connections through which work gets done and relationships are built among people who share a common organizational affiliation or cluster of affiliations. It consists of a dynamic set of personal relationships, social networks, communities of common interest, and emotional sources of motivation. The informal organization evolves, and the complex social dynamics of its members also.

Social rule system theory is an attempt to formally approach different kinds of social rule systems in a unified manner. Social rules systems include institutions such as norms, laws, regulations, taboos, customs, and a variety of related concepts and are important in the social sciences and humanities. Social rule system theory is fundamentally an institutionalist approach to the social sciences, both in its placing primacy on institutions and in its use of sets of rules to define concepts in social theory.

Organizational ethics is the ethics of an organization, and it is how an organization responds to an internal or external stimulus. Organizational ethics is interdependent with the organizational culture. Although it is to both organizational behavior and industrial and organizational psychology as well as business ethics on the micro and macro levels, organizational ethics is neither organizational behavior nor industrial and organizational psychology, nor is it solely business ethics. Organizational ethics express the values of an organization to its employees and/or other entities irrespective of governmental and/or regulatory laws.

Text and conversation is a theory in the field of organizational communication illustrating how communication makes up an organization. In the theory's simplest explanation, an organization is created and defined by communication. Communication "is" the organization and the organization exists because communication takes place. The theory is built on the notion, an organization is not seen as a physical unit holding communication. Text and conversation theory puts communication processes at the heart of organizational communication and postulates, an organization doesn't contain communication as a "causal influence", but is formed by the communication within. This theory is not intended for direct application, but rather to explain how communication exists. The theory provides a framework for better understanding organizational communication.


  1. "Example of an voluntary association".
  2. "Example of a mission statement".
  3. "challenges that organizations face".
  4. Compare: Grande, Odd Torgier (1970). Organizations in society: a model framework and its application to organizations in agriculture. Cornell University. p. 164. Retrieved 8 December 2018. It is also necessary [615513925...] to identify social systems that are not organizations. Many of these are enormously important, but they lack an organization's purposive activity. Among the more conspicuous 'non-organizations' are races and ethnic groups (they have no programs), social classes (their collective identities are not unequivocal and their rosters not exact), cliques and play groups (they lack a collective identity), interest groups such as 'liberals' or 'old-fashioned conservatives' (they have no rosters).
  5. Knight, Jack (1992). Institutions and social conflict. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–3. ISBN   978-0-511-52817-0. OCLC   1127523562.
  6. Schnetler, Rohann; Steyn, Herman; Van Staden, Paul J. (23 February 2015). "Characteristics of Matrix Structures, and Their Effects on Project Success". The South African Journal of Industrial Engineering. 26 (1): 11. doi: 10.7166/26-1-1096 . ISSN   2224-7890.
  7. 1 2 Douma, Sytse; Schreuder, Hein (2013) [1991]. Economic Approaches to Organizations (5th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. ISBN   978-0-273-73529-8.
  8. 1 2 3 Knowles, Henry P.; Saxberg, Borje O. (1971). Personality and Leadership Behavior. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. pp. 884–89. OCLC   118832.
  9. 1 2 Gibb, Cecil A. (1970). Leadership: Selected Readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN   0140805176. OCLC   174777513.
  10. Cao, Zhi; Lumineau, Fabrice (2015). "Revisiting the interplay between contractual and relational governance: A qualitative and meta-analytic investigation". Journal of Operations Management. 33–34 (1): 15–42. doi:10.1016/j.jom.2014.09.009. S2CID   12536364.
  11. Lui, Steven S.; Ngo, Hang-Yue (2004). "The Role of Trust and Contractual Safeguards on Cooperation in Non-equity Alliances". Journal of Management. 30 (4): 471–485. doi:10.1016/ ISSN   0149-2063. S2CID   144788583.
  12. Poppo, Laura; Zenger, Todd (2002). "Do formal contracts and relational governance function as substitutes or complements?". Strategic Management Journal. 23 (8): 707–725. doi:10.1002/smj.249. ISSN   1097-0266.