Organizational Analysis


In this introductory, self-paced course, you will learn multiple theories of organizational behavior and apply them to actual cases of organizational change.

It is hard to imagine living in modern society without participating in or interacting with organizations. The ubiquity and variability of organizations means there is ample room for complexity and confusion in the organizational challenges we regularly face. Through this course, students will consider cases describing various organizational struggles: school systems and politicians attempting to implement education reforms; government administrators dealing with an international crisis; technology firms trying to create a company ethos that sustains worker commitment; and even two universities trying to gain international standing by performing a merger.

Each case is full of details and complexity. So how do we make sense of organizations and the challenges they face, let alone develop means of managing them in desired directions? While every detail can matter, some matter more than others. This is why we rely on organizational theories -- to focus our attention and draw out relevant features in a sensible way.

Through this course you will come to see that there is nothing more practical than a good theory.Every week, you'll learn a different organizational theory, and it will become a lens through which you can interpret concrete organizational situations. Armed with a toolset of theories, you will then be able to systematically identify important features of an organization and the events transforming it – and use the theories to predict which actions will best redirect the organization in a desired direction.


Daniel A. McFarland, Professor, Education, Sociology, and Organizational Behavior

Course Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction 
Week 2: Decisions by rational and rule-based procedures
Week 3: Decisions by dominant coalitions
Week 4: Decisions in organized anarchies
Week 5: Developing organizational learning and intelligence
Week 6: Developing an organizational culture
Week 7: Managing resource dependencies
Week 8: Network forms of organization
Week 9: Institutions and organizational legitimacy
Week 10: Population Ecology and Course Summary
Week 11: Final Exam

Suggested Readings

Assigned readings are mostly open source materials that can be found through the web. Although the lectures are designed to be self-contained, the syllabus lists readings throughout the course for those who wish to write papers and complete the advanced track requirements. Please see the syllabus for more details.

Course Archived

Stanford Graduate School of Education