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What Is Organizational Behavior and Theory?

Organizational behavior and theory first emerged as an area of study in the early half of the 20th century. Organizational theory represented the “merger of scientific management, bureaucratic theory, and administrative theory,” according to professor of management David S. Walonick. Before the Industrial Revolution, world economies consisted of largely agrarian markets, and people relied on artisans and craftspeople for goods. Following the advent of machines, a surge in production required increasingly larger workforces to keep pace with global demand. To efficiently coordinate larger numbers of people, industries needed systematic approaches.

Theorists like Frederick Taylor, Max Weber, James D. Mooney and Alan C. Riley laid the groundwork for modern organizational behavior and theory. They limited their approaches, however, to simple industrial organizations and often increased production at the expense of worker health and safety. As economies matured, however, so did the field of organizational behavior and theory.

Moving Beyond Production

Organizational behavior and theory draws upon other disciplines to better focus on the human aspect of industrialized economies. Ecology, psychology and ethics all play important roles in organizational behavior and theory. Environmental preservation and workers’ rights are two examples of social movements that have greatly influenced the field. Production is no longer the only priority; other key factors create ethical, efficient systems that coordinate the efforts of large numbers of people.

Basic Aspects of Organizations

Management experts view organizations through a variety of lenses. Organizational behavior theorists Milena Parent, Danny O’Brien and Trevor Slack devised a helpful framework that divides an organization into three main categories: structural, contextual and methodological.

Structural Aspects

The structural aspects of organizational behavior and theory relate to authority, decision-making and logistics. They describe how information, goods and people interact to reach shared goals. Theorists may focus on an organization’s differentiation (the specialization of each department or sector) or how people make decisions. As organizations grow more complex, so do their maintenance processes.

Contextual Aspects

While structural aspects tend to focus on the inner workings of an organization, examining the arrangement of people and resources, contextual aspects look outward to the contexts in which the organization operates. Some possible contextual aspects may include a specific industry or country of operation, or even cultures the organization itself creates, such as professional sports leagues.

Methodological Aspects

Organizations rely on a number of complex processes, each with its own steps, stages, benefits and pitfalls. Focusing on the processes of an organization, theorists can recommend actions to streamline change, devise systems for decision-making, or mitigate conflict.

Organizational Behavior and Theory for Sports

The same aspects that coordinate large numbers of people working together also apply to sports organizations. As such, sports managers must learn “A basic grounding in organisation theory … to recognise the symptoms of potential organisational problems before they actually arise, thereby keeping our sport organisations … running efficiently” (Parent, O’Brien and Slack).

Many sports professionals earn a master’s degree in sport management to keep pace with developments in organizational behavior and theory. Sports organizations comprise a multibillion-dollar industry, but they are not merely a conglomeration of businesses. They exist in and create subcultures and communities, and they inspire positive change that affects many other industries.

Sports management professionals understand the complexity of the sports industry. Given the social importance of sport and its impact on global cultures, a master’s degree in sport management can illuminate some of the more intricate and often obscure aspects of this subset of organizational behavior and theory.

Learn about the LSU online MS in kinesiology with a specialization in sport management program.


StatPac Survey Research Library: Organizational Theory and Behavior

ResearchGate: Organization Theory and Sport Management

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