Calendar, syllabus and course materials



Session 1 – Introduction to Organization Theory and Design 

This session illustrates the aims of the course and the learning approach adopted throughout. It introduces the basic concepts of the course and starts exploring the theoretical approaches to organizations.

16/02/2016 – Presentation of the course, rules of the game, preliminary assessment

17/02/2016 – Organization design and Organization theory  (read the paper: 1_CentralPerspectives_Astley 1983) – Slides: Session1_Lesson2

Required readings:

  • Astley, G & Van de Ven, A. (1983). Central perspectives and debates in organization theory. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28: 245-273.

Optional readings:

  • Morgan G (1984) Images of Organizations, Sage Publications
  • Simon, H (1962) The Sciences of Artificial


Session 2 – Competitive contexts and organisational challenges 

This session focuses on the challenges that the competitive contexts impose on organisations in terms of their design and evolution.

23/02/2016 and 24/02/2016 – read the paper: 2_Camping on seesaws_Hedberg

24/02/2016: read the case: Kodak (1 page) – Slides: Session2_Lessons3_4

Required readings:

  • Hedberg, B. L. T., Nystrom, P. C., & Starbuck, W. H. (1976) Camping on seesaws: Prescriptions for a self-designing organization. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21, 41- 65.


Sessions 3 and 4 – Rational approach to organisation: Scientific Management

Scientific management seeks to improve an organization’s efficiency by systematically improving the efficiency of task completion by utilizing scientific, engineering, and mathematical analysis. The goal is to reduce waste, increase the process and methods of production, and create a just distribution of goods. The theory part will consist of the basic premises of scientific management through learning about its most famous pioneers such as Taylor and Gilbreth.

01/03/2016 –  read the paper: 3a_FWT_OneHundred – Slides: Session3_Lesson5

02/03/2016 – Joint round table: “Facing Organizational Challenges” – Special guest: Stefano Zannini – COO Medicine sans frontieres – Classroom T02

08/03/2016 – read the paper: 3b_Contributions_Schroyer – Slides: Session3_Lesson7

09/03/2016 – Seminar – read the paper (3s_Seminar_a_The SM_Brennan), focus on the section “Discussion” and be ready for class discussion – slides: SM & IO – we used this platform: Mentimeter

Required readings:

  • Anne M. Blake and James L. Moseley Frederick Winslow Taylor: One hundred years of managerial insight. International Journal of Management. 9 pages.
  • Helen Q. Schroyer Contributions of the Gilbreths to the development of management thought. Academy of management proceedings. 3 pages.

Seminar session readings (required):

  • Linda L. Brennan. The Scientific Management of Information Overload. Journal of Business and Management. 2011. 15 pages.
  • Manjula S. Salimath and Raymond J. Jones. Scientific Entrepreneurial Management: Bricolage, Bootstrapping, and the Quest for Efficiencies. International Journal of Management: 20 pages.


Session 5 – Contingency approach   

The session provides an overview of the contingency approach to study and interpret organisations. It then offers insights on its more recent evolution – e.g. configurational approach.

15/03/2016 and 16/03/2016: read the paper 4_Diff&Int_Lawrence&Lorsch – Cases and examples – slides: Session5_Lesson9 – Session5_Lesson9_Synthesis – Session5_Lesson10_Integrations

Required readings:

  • Lawrence PR Lorsch JW Differentiation and Integration in Complex Organizations, Administrative Science Quarterly, 1967
  • Cases and examples: Donaldson, L., & Joffe, G. (2014). Fit-The Key to Organizational Design. Journal of Organization Design, 3(3), 38-45


Session 6 – Organisation design and organisation architecture

The session reviews how the concept of Organisation Design has evolved over time Although Organisation Design is not the only challenge faced by today’s organizations, “understanding the rich designs of today’s organizations ought to be the keystone of organization theory and a path to enhancing its relevance”.

22/03/2016 and 23/03/2016 – read the paper: 5_TacklingDesign_Greenwood – example of a transnational PSF: McKinsey & Company

Required reading:

  • Greenwood & Miller (2010). Tackling Design Anew: Getting Back to the Heart of Organizational Theory. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24(4), 78-88


Sessions 7 and 8 – Changing fabric of organization

Building on recent research of Organizational Design, this illustrates the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), perceived as an agent of change that opens the door to valuable opportunities. We will investigate how ICT relates to the organizational characteristics and leads to diverse organizational outcomes, above all, efficiency and innovation.

30/03/2016 – read the paper: 6_Entreprise Transformation_Rouse

05/04/2016 – in-class exercise (see validity) – In-classExercise

06/04/2016 – invited academic speaker: Sara Lombardi (University of Florence – LUISS Guido Carli) – Presentation

Required readings:

  • William B. Rouse and Marietta L. Baba, Enterprise transformation, Communication of the ACM July 2006 vol. 49. No 7

Optional readings:

  • Kaisa Henttonen “Doing A While Hoping for B?: A Study On Organizational Innovation in Three Large Organisations” (pp. 165-188).
  • Chapter 9 of Burton, R. M., Eriksen, B. H., Døjbak Håkonsson, D., Knudsen, T., & Snow, C. C. (Eds.). (2008). Designing Organizations. 21st Century Approaches. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.


Session 9 – Institutional theory

Institutional theory postulates that institutions are a critical component in the environment and they are regulative, normative, and cognitive structures and activities that provide stability and meaning for social behavior. Examples of institutions include laws, regulations, customs, social and professional norms, culture, and ethics. Institutions exert a constraining influence over organizations, called isomorphism that forces organizations in the same population to resemble other organizations that face the same set of environmental conditions. In the theory session, we will first discuss the general principles of institutional theory

12/04/2016 – read the paper: 6a_IronCage_DiMaggio

13/04/2016 – Seminar session: we some international mini-cases that exemplify institutions that constrain and shape individuals and organizations.

Seminar session readings: Volkswagen: The scandal explained – Helmet in USA – Helmet in Italy


Session 10 – Organizational sense-making

Organisations make and give sense to stimuli – e.g. signs, signals, and challenges. Karl Weick proposed the concept of sensemaking: ‘sensemaking is about contextual rationality. It is built out of vague questions, muddy answers, and negotiated agreements that attempt to reduce confusion’.

19/04/2016 and 20/04/2016 – read the paper: 9b_Sensemaking_Weick – Mann Gulch – picture – Uruguayan Rugby Team (cannibalism)

Required reading: Weick, K. E. (1993). The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: The Mann Gulch disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 628-652.


Optional reading:

  • Porac, J., Thomas, H., Wilson, F., Paton, D. & Kanfer, A. 1995. Rivalry and the Industry Model of Scottish Knitwear Producers. Administrative Science Quarterly. 40(2): 203-227.


Session 11 – Behavioural approaches to organization design

The behavioural approach – rooted in the so-called Carnegie school – has focused on the psychological underpinnings of decision-making and advanced a path-breaking conceptualization of bounded rationality – i.e. the: ‘..decision making is the heart of administration..’ ‘..administrative theory must be concerned with the limits of rationality, and the manner in which organizations affect these limits for the person making a decision..’ (Simon, 1947, p. 241).


26/04/2016 – Behavioural approaches to organization design – Session11_class1

27/04/2016 – Positive Organizations invited academic speaker: Prof. Miguel Pina e Cunha (Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisbon  – winner of the LUISS international chair 2015/2016) –

Read the paper: CreatingTheBestWorkplace


Optional readings:

  • Cyert, RM and March JM (1963) A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, Englewood Cliffs
  • Cohen, M, March, J, Olsen, J. 1972. “A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice.” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1. (Mar., 1972), pp. 1-25.


Session 12 – Organizational culture and identity

Empirical studies have found that culture and identify constitute the quintessential feature of groups and organisations as they (a) provide the platform for organisational growth, (b) preserve organisations against competitive threats, (c) and may also create resistance to change.


03/05/2016 – Seminar on Organizational Identity (slides: 12_SlidesMay3 – Industry keynote speaker: Luigi de Bernardis (Consob, LUISS Guido Carli) – Read the paper: 10_11_DeBernardisGiustiniano_Preview_JOCM-05-2014-0096 – Read and bring with you: 12_Assignment 3 May

04/05/2016 -Lesson cancelled because of the ‘Job Day’


Seminar reading:

  • De Bernardis L. and Giustiniano L. (2015) Evolution of multiple organisational identities after an M&A: A case study from Europe. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(3), 333-355.


Session 12 – National and organizational culture 

10/05/2016 – National and organizational culture: The contribution of Geert Hofstede – Closing of the course

11/05/2016 – Q&A


Not for the exam but for future job interviews:

Here are Google, Amazon, and Facebook’s secrets to hiring the best people


Required reading:

  • Hobday, M. (2000). The project-based organization: An ideal form for managing complex products and systems? Research Policy, 29(7–8), 871–893.
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