Sub-theme 60: Organization and Decision: The Theoretical Challenge of a Changing World
Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany
Niels Akerstrøm Andersen
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany
Call for Papers
Major changes have taken place in the organizational landscape in recent years because of the processes of growing complexity, globalization, and digitalization. Complexity in organizational environments leads to more organizational fluidity, and organizing seems to become more temporary, latent, modular, project-based, boundary-less, fluid, and partial (Ahrne et al., 2016; Brès et al., 2018; Schreyögg & Sydow, 2010). Large corporations are in decline, whereas the overall number of organizations worldwide is growing rapidly (King, 2017). Organizations coordinate among each other more and more globally as well as in network, latent, or Meta-forms of organization (Ahrne et al., 2016) – creating even more organizations. Moreover, digitalization is significantly affecting organizations in various forms. How organizations strategize, structure, and decide is increasingly driven by Big Data and algorithms (McAfee & Brynjolfsson, 2012). In the context of these rapid developments, established concepts of bureaucracy, formality, goal orientation, membership, and hierarchies lose their capability to grasp empirical reality, confronting scholars of organizational studies with severe theoretical challenges (Barley, 2016; Davis, 2015).
Against this backdrop, some scholars have started to update the notion of organization. One outcome of this movement is a resurgence of interest in a decision-based understanding of organization. Newer works connect to the classic theory of decision-making developed by James March and Herbert Simon (1993) and put to the core a communication-based understanding of the notion of decision.
Within the increasingly internationally established “communication constitutes organization” (CCO) perspective (Boivin et al., 2017), a growing stream of research has begun to apply an understanding of organization based on decision communications (Schoeneborn, 2011). Scholars, for example, presented new insights on how agency in organizations is constructed by decisions (Blaschke, 2015) and on how fluid collectives construct and maintain their boundaries as organizations by decisions (Dobusch & Schoeneborn, 2015). Moreover, Ahrne and Brunsson (2011; forthcoming) introduced a definition of organization as decided social order – a view that has led to inquire such phenomena like membership-less collectives (Grothe-Hammer, forthcoming), intimate relationships, or markets as instances of organization (see Ahrne et al., 2016). Finally, yet importantly, a strong European sociological tradition, that is, the theory of autopoietic and decision-based organizations devised by Niklas Luhmann, has become increasingly popular in organization studies (Apelt et al., 2017; Besio & Meyer, 2015; Czarniawska, 2017; Grothe-Hammer & Berthod, 2017; Seidl & Becker, 2006). With the upcoming publication of the translation of Niklas Luhmann’s (forthcoming) monograph “Organisation und Entscheidung” (Organization and Decision), which in its German original is already immensely famous in several parts of Europe, it is most likely that this discourse will experience a further boost in popularity.
We believe that these new developments in organization theory provide a promising framework to address the outlined theoretical challenges. Our sub-theme aims to foster a discussion on how a decision-based view of organizations can provide new understandings to capture the abovementioned empirical developments to understand how organizations differ from other phenomena, such as networks or groups, to explain how new organizational forms operate, and to grasp how they affect society in general. Contributions can be conceptual, empirical, or methodological in nature and must address issues of organization theory (and not solely of organizational behavior).
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Understanding organization: Organization has been understood as a process, a system, an entity, a structure, or as an actor. How can we make sense of these different notions? Does a decision-based approach provide a unified understanding?
Organization and complexity: How do organizations manage environmental complexity? How do they reduce and produce complexity? How do organizations cope with uncertainty by decision-making processes?
Organization and globalization: How do organizations become smaller and more globalized at the same time? What effects do organizations have on the global order?
Organization and digitalization: Are organizations changing by the availability of new digital technologies? How are responsibilities distributed in the digital age? What are the consequences of replacing decision-makers with algorithms? Does the digitalization make organizations obsolete or is the digitalization an instance of organization?
Organization and institution: How can we understand the relationship between decided (organized) orders and emergent orders like networks or institutions? How do decisions affect institutions? How do organizations draw on institutions? How do decisions become institutions and vice versa?
Organization(s) and the impact on society: How do organizations decide on inclusion/exclusion of individuals into/from different societal areas, and how are these processes changing? How do organizations deal with and manage societal-level processes? How do organizations mediate between contradictory societal logics?
Organizational fluidity: How can we understand fluidity, temporality, latency or modularity of organization in terms of decisions? How are organizational boundaries constituted when an organization is fluid?
- Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2011): “Organization outside organizations: the significance of partial organization.” Organization, 18(1), 83–104.
- Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (eds.) (forthcoming): Organization Outside Organizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Ahrne, G., Brunsson, N., & Seidl, D. (2016): “Resurrecting Organization by Going Beyond Organizations.” European Management Journal, 34 (2), 93–101.
- Apelt, M., Besio, C., Corsi, G., von Groddeck, V., Grothe-Hammer, M., & Tacke, V. (2017): “Resurrecting Organization Without Renouncing Society: A Response to Ahrne, Brunsson and Seidl.” European Management Journal, 35 (1), 8–14.
- Barley, S.R. (2016): “60th Anniversary Essay: Ruminations on How We Became a Mystery House and How We Might Get Out.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 61 (1), 1–8.
- Besio, C., & Meyer, U. (2015): “Heterogeneity in World Society: How Organizations Handle Contradicting Logics.” In: B. Holzer, F. Kastner, T. Werron & M. Albert (eds.): From Globalization to World Society. Neo-institutional and Systems-theoretical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 237–257.
- Blaschke, S. (2015): “It’s All in the Network: A Luhmannian Perspective on Agency.” Management Communication Quarterly, 29 (3), 463–468.
- Boivin, G., Brummans, B.H.J.M., & Barker, J.R. (2017): “The Institutionalization of CCO Scholarship: Trends from 2000 to 2015.” Management Communication Quarterly, 31 (3), 331–355.
- Brès, L., Raufflet, E., & Boghossian, J. (2018): “Pluralism in Organizations: Learning from Unconventional Forms of Organizations.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 20 (2), 364–386.
- Czarniawska, B. (2017): “Bruno Latour and Niklas Luhmann as Organization Theorists.” European Management Journal, 35 (2), 145–150.
- Davis, G.F. (2015): “Celebrating Organization Theory: The After-Party.” Journal of Management Studies, 52 (2), 309–319.
- Dobusch, L., & Schoeneborn, D. (2015): “Fluidity, Identity, and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous.” Journal of Management Studies, 52 (8), 1005–1035.
- Grothe-Hammer, M. (forthcoming): “From Membership to Contributorship: Managing the Inclusion of Individuals into Organizations.” In: G. Ahrne & N. Brunsson (eds.): Organization Outside Organizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Grothe-Hammer, M., & Berthod, O. (2017): “The Programming of Decisions for Disaster and Emergency Response: A Luhmannian Approach.” Current Sociology, 65 (5), 735–755.
- King, B.G. (2017): The Relevance of Organizational Sociology. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 46(2), 131–137.
- Luhmann, N. (forthcoming): Organization and Decision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- March, J.G., & Simon, H.A. (1993): Organizations, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Blackwell.
- McAfee, A., Brynjolfsson, E., & Davenport, T.H. (2012): “Big Data: The Management Revolution.” Harvard Business Review, 90 (10), 60–68.
- Schoeneborn, D. (2011): “Organization as Communication.” Management Communication Quarterly, 25 (4), 663–689.
- Schreyögg, G., & Sydow, J. (2010): “Organizing for Fluidity? Dilemmas of New Organizational Forms.” Organization Science, 21 (6), 1251–1262.
- Seidl, D., & Becker, K.H. (2006): “Organizations as Distinction Generating and Processing Systems: Niklas Luhmann’s Contribution to Organization Studies.” Organization, 13 (1), 9–35.
Cristina Besio is Professor for Sociology (especially Sociology of Organizations) at the Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany Her research focuses on systems theory, scientific communication, organizations and ethics. Cristina is board member of the Research Committee on Sociology of Organizations of the International Sociological Association (ISA) and of the Section on Organizational Sociology of the German Sociological Association (DGS).
Niels Akerstrøm Andersen is Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His field is public administration and welfare management in a very broad sense, which he approaches through systems theory, conceptual history, discourse theory and deconstruction. Niels’s latest books are: “Public Management in Transition. The Orchestration of Potentiality” (2016, with Justine Pors), “Managing Intensity and Play at Work” (2013), “Hybrid Forms of Governance” (2012, with Inger-Johanne Sand), and “Power at Play” (2009).
Michael Grothe-Hammer is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany. His field is organizational sociology with a focus on the perspectives of partial organization and communication constitutes organization (CCO). He is especially interested in new forms of organization and their relation to society. Michael is board member of the Research Committee on Sociology of Organizations of the International Sociological Association (ISA). His work has appeared in various outlets such as the ‘Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory’, ‘Organizational Research Methods’, and ‘Current Sociology’.