Theories of Organizations in Management

llsma2006  2019-2020  Louvain-la-Neuve

Theories of Organizations in Management
Note from June 29, 2020
Although we do not yet know how long the social distancing related to the Covid-19 pandemic will last, and regardless of the changes that had to be made in the evaluation of the June 2020 session in relation to what is provided for in this learning unit description, new learnig unit evaluation methods may still be adopted by the teachers; details of these methods have been - or will be - communicated to the students by the teachers, as soon as possible.
5 credits
30.0 h
Coeurderoy Régis;
Main themes
This course will review the main theories in management that explain the existence of firms as specific institutions. The course includes both theories based upon the economic approach (agency; transaction cost approach and RBV) and theories based upon more sociological approaches (social interactions; institutional; networks). Emphasis will be put on how these theories explain the determinants of the size and scope of firms, or, in other words, on the main reasons why coordination of activities within a firm is preferred to coordination on a market.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 On successful completion of this program, each student will acquire the following skills :
  • Develop
  • Communicate

At the end of this course, the student will be able to :
Undertand the different perspectives on organizations and to mobilize concepts in a sound rationale on managerial issues.

The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
Why do firms exist? And why markets and other arrangements among individual or collective actors exist? How can we explain the causes and consequences of interactions and collaborations between actors? How can we assess (and give sense to) performance evaluations (profit, efficiency, legitimacy...) at individual or organizational levels? Here are some of the core questions supporting a sizeable chunk of research works in management. To tackle seriously such issues, researchers need to develop intellectual frameworks that we call theories. Theories provide lens to analyse people actions and behaviors and to draw causal relations. Furthermore, theories create the common grammar that a community of researchers shares.
Albeit considered as a "practice matters at first" discipline, management also needs theories, not only to be accepted as an academic discipline, but also to create sound, replicative and cumulative knowledge. So far, theoretical approaches of organizations developed in management studies have been widely inspired by more old and established disciplines in social sciences – economics, psychology and sociology. More recently, researchers in management have developed efforts to create a more specific approach.
This course is an introduction to these theories of organizations widely used in the research field of management & organizations. We will review the main theoretical approaches through their disciplinary origin: economics (day 2), sociology (day 4) and psychology (day 5). We will also review the theories more “management based”: the competence approach (day 3) and the stakeholders approach (day 6). We will start by a brief introduction and an analysis of behavioural assumptions adopted in these social science theories.
The learning objectives are twofold. The very first learning objective will be focused on the basic features of each theoretical approach. We will help students (a) to acquire a helicopter’s view and a synthetic perspective on the different theories - useful knowledge to position your research on sound foundations (internal consistency); (b) to sort out concepts and frameworks and to be able to identify specific features of each theory and overlaps/contradictions between theories - other useful knowledge to position your research on sound foundations (external consistency). The second learning objective will be more oriented towards the development of a researcher’s skills. We will help students (a) to develop analytical reading skills – useful to manage huge volumes of articles; (b) to develop synthetic writing skills – useful to orchestrate discussion between papers and develop your own way.
The course is a PhD level course.
  1.  Introduction to the theories of the firm
  2. Firms, markets and other organizations: theoretical foundations for a puzzle
  3. Behavioural assumptions: rationality and motivation
  4. Theoretical foundations 1: the coordination issue
  5. Theoretical foundations 2: the competence issue
  6. Theoretical foundations 3: the institutional issue
  7. Theoretical foundations 4: the network issue
Teaching methods
The format of the course is centred on lectures and paper discussions, with a high level of participation expected from the students. In a typical one day (five hours) session, we will proceed in three steps:
(1)       9:30 -11:00     General introduction of the theoretical lens (“Foundations”) Each student will be advised to prepare readings. These readings are useful for appropriation and discussion of the theories;
(2)       11:00 -12:45   Team work & discussion on a recent development of the theory (“Developments”)     We will work in class on a selection of papers, based on a list of questions. Each student will be required to prepare readings. These readings are necessary for appropriation and discussion of the theories;
(3)       13:30 -15:15   Team work & discussion on a recent debate on the theory (“Debates”)   We will work in class on a selection of papers, based on a list of questions. Each student will be required to prepare readings. These readings are necessary for appropriation and discussion of the theories;
Evaluation methods
Continuous evaluation.  No formal evaluation during midterm week neither during exam session
Other information
La commission d'enseignements de la LSM ajoute des informations complémentaires, i.e.
  • si l'activité est accessible à un public ne maîtrisant pas la langue d'enseignement
  • les équivalences reconnues avec d'autres activités offertes dans des programmes UCL 2...
Online resources
  • Readings on moodle
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [120] in Management