An organisation (or organization — see spelling differences) is a social arrangement which pursues collective goals, which controls its own performance, and which has a boundary separating it from its environment. The word itself is derived from the Greek word "ὄργανον" (organon) meaning "tool". The term is used in both daily and scientific English in multiple ways.

In the social sciences, organisations are studied by researchers from several disciplines. Most commonly in sociology, economics, political science, psychology, management, and organisational communication. The broad area is commonly referred to as organisational studies, organisational behaviour or organisation analysis. Therefore, a number of different theories and perspectives exist, some of which are compatible, and others that are competing.

*Organisation – process-related: an entity is being (re-)organised (organisation as task or action).
*Organisation – functional: organisation as a function of how entities like businesses or state authorities are used (organisation as a permanent structure).
*Organisation – institutional: an entity is an organisation (organisation as an actual purposeful structure within a social context)

Organisation in sociology

In sociology "organisation" is understood as planned, coordinated and purposeful action of human beings to construct or compile a common tangible or intangible product. This action is usually framed by formal membership and form (institutional rules). Sociology distinguishes the term organisation into planned formal and unplanned informal (i.e. spontaneously formed) organisations. Sociology analyses organisations in the first line from an institutional perspective. In this sense, organisation is a permanent 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 labour.

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

By coordinated and planned cooperation of the elements, the organisation 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 organisations are enhancement (more of the same), addition (combination of different features), and extension. Disadvantages can be inertness (through co-ordination) and loss of interaction.

Organisations in virtual worlds

In a virtual World (such as Second Life) "organisation [s] " is understood as planned, coordinated and purposeful action of human beings and computer AIs in order to construct and/or compile a common intangible product or service to its community. Just as "an organisation in sociology" this action is usually framed by formal membership and form (institutional rules). As in Second Life an organisation is usually used for making money (i.e. Power Products inc. - or like in World Of Warcraft: the clan Farmers Organisation-) and security, some are also wicked and evil organisations- usually called griefer/troller groups/organisations such as the [ Pirates of Tibia] that roams Tibia. Many fail to realise that Wikipedia is a wiki, and thus subject to the review and editing of others, and also that they will be aware of any slander put upon them in this medium. These would not be classified as organisations in the "real world" because they are not truly "alive". Some organisations in Virtual Worlds have a very important roles in Real Life activities.

Some of these "clans" exist between virtual worlds, sometimes migrating between them, as newer versions of software come out, or games better suited to the system of clans. Some games, such as the aforementioned World of Warcraft and Dungeon Siege have extensive clan systems, consisting of hundreds of members. This gives rise to entire "mini societies", where you can buy and sell equipment, using real world or virtual money. This is a good example of how societies can form.

Organisation in management and organisational studies

Management is interested in organisation mainly from an instrumental point of view. For a company organisation is a means to an end to achieve its goals.

Organisation theories

Among the theories that are or have been most influential are:
*Weberian organisation theory (refer to Max Weber's chapter on Bureaucracy in his book 'Economy and Society')
*Marxist organisation analysis
*Scientific management (mainly following Frederick W. Taylor)
*Human Relations Studies (going back to the Hawthorne studies, Maslow and Hertzberg)
*Administrative theories (with work by e.g. Henri Fayol and Chester Barnard)
*Contingency theory
*New institutionalism and new institutional economics
*Network analysis
*Economic sociology
*Organization ecology (or demography of organisations)
*Transaction cost economics
*Agency theory (sometimes called principal - agent theory)
*Studies of organisation culture
*Postmodern organisation studies
*Labour Process Theory
*Critical Management Studies
*Complexity Theory and Organisations
*Transaction cost theory/Transaction cost Economics (TCE)
*Garbage can model
*Actor-Network Theory and the 'Montreal School'

Organisational structures

The study of organisations includes a focus on optimizing organisational structure. According to management science, most human organisations fall roughly into four types:
*Pyramids or hierarchies
*Committees or juries
*Matrix organisations

Pyramids or hierarchies

A hierarchy exemplifies an arrangement with a leader who leads leaders. This arrangement is often associated with bureaucracy. 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".

An extremely rigid, in terms of responsibilities, type of organisation is exemplified by Führerprinzip.

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 amongst 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 "worse" than a roll of dice, the committee's decisions grow worse, not better: Staffing is crucial.

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

Staff organisation or cross-functional team

A staff helps an expert get all his work done. To this end, a "chief of staff" decides whether an assignment is routine or not. If it's routine, he assigns it to a staff member, who is a sort of junior expert. The chief of staff schedules the routine problems, and checks that they are completed.

If a problem is not routine, the chief of staff notices. He passes it to the expert, who solves the problem, and educates the staff – converting the problem into a routine problem.

In a "cross functional team", like an executive committee, the boss "has" to be a non-expert, because so many kinds of expertise are required.

Organisation: Cyclical structure

A theory by put forth by renowned scholar Stephen John has asserted that throughout the cyclical nature of one’s life organisational patterns are key to success. Through various social and political constraints within society one must realize that organisational skills are paramount to success. Stephen John suggests that emphasis needs to be put on areas such as individual/ group processes, functionality, and overall structures of institutions in order to maintain a proper organisation. Furthermore, the individuals overall organisational skills are pre-determined by the processes undertaken.

Matrix organisation

This organisational type assigns each worker two bosses in two different hierarchies. One hierarchy is "functional" and assures that each type of expert in the organisation 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 regions, customer types, or some other schema.matrix management"


This organisation has intense competition. Bad parts of the organisation starve. Good ones get more work. Everybody is paid for what they actually do, and runs a tiny business that has to show a profit, or they are fired.

Companies who utilize this organisation 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 organisation in [,3604,1294443,00.html this external article] from The Guardian.

"Chaordic" organisations

The chaordic model of organising human endeavours emerged in the 1990s, based on a blending of chaos and order (hence "chaordic"), comes out of the work of Dee Hock and the creation of the VISA financial network. Blending democracy, complex system, consensus decision making, co-operation and competition, the chaordic approach attempts to encourage organisations to evolve from the increasingly nonviable hierarchical, command-and-control models.

Similarly, emergent organisations, and the principle of self-organisation. See also group entity for an anarchist perspective on human organisations.

Organisations that are legal entities: government, international organisation, non-governmental organisation, armed forces, corporation, partnership, charity, not-for-profit corporation, cooperative, university.

See also

*Affinity group
*Business organisation
*Charitable trust
*International organisation
*Mutual organisation
*Non-governmental organisation
*Organisational culture
*Organisation design
*Organisational climate
*Organisational development
*Organisation studies
*Pacifist organisation
*Requisite organisation
*Service organisation
*Size of groups, organisations, and communities
*Strategic Management
*Strategic Organisation
*Terrorist organisations
*Virtual organisation
*Voluntary association

Related lists

*List of environmental organisations
*List of trade unions
*List of civic, fraternal, service, and professional organisations
*List of organisations


*" Organisations" by Richard Scott: ISBN 0-13-266354-6
*"Organisations and Institutions" by Richard Scott
*"Understanding Organizations" by Charles Handy.
*"The Peter Principle", Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, Pan Books 1970 ISBN 0-330-02519-8
*"The Nature of the Firm" by Ronald Coase.
*"Organizing from the Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern, Owl Books 1998 ISBN 0-8050-5649-1
*"Organization Design: Fashion or Fit" by Henry Mintzberg, Harvard Business Review (January February, l98l)

External links

* [ Research on Organizations: Bibliography Database and Maps]
* [] : a site dedicated to collective intelligence and structure of organizations

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