History of Organizational Studies in Descriptive Theories of Education

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the essence of leadership. Aristotle addressed the topic of persuasive communication. The writings of 16th century Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli laid the foundation for contemporary work on organizational power and politics. In 1776, Adam Smith advocated a new form of organizational structure based on the division of labour. One hundred years later, German sociologist Max Weber wrote about rational organizations and initiated discussion of charismatic leadership. Soon after, Frederick Winslow Taylor introduced the systematic use of goal setting and rewards to motivate employees. In the 1920s, Australian-born Harvard professor Elton Mayo and his colleagues conducted productivity studies at Western Electric's Hawthorne plant in the United States.

Though it traces its roots back to Max Weber and earlier, organizational studies began as an academic discipline with the advent of scientific management in the 1890s, with Taylorism representing the peak of this movement. Proponents of scientific management held that rationalizing the organization with precise sets of instructions and time-motion studies would lead to increased productivity. Studies of different compensation systems were carried out.

After the First World War, the focus of organizational studies shifted to how human factors and psychology affected organizations, a transformation propelled by the identification of the Hawthorne Effect. This Human Relations Movement focused on teams, motivation, and the actualization of the goals of individuals within organizations.

Prominent early scholars included Chester Barnard, Henri Fayol, Frederick Herzberg, Abraham Maslow, David McClelland, and Victor Vroom.

The Second World War further shifted the field, as the invention of large-scale logistics and operations research led to a renewed interest in rationalist approaches to the study of organizations. Interest grew in theory and methods native to the sciences, including systems theory, the study of organizations with a complexity theory perspective and complexity strategy. Influential work was done by Herbert Alexander Simon and James G. March and the so-called "Carnegie School" of organizational behavior.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the field was strongly influenced by social psychology and the emphasis in academic study was on quantitative research. An explosion of theorizing, much of it at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon, produced Bounded Rationality, Informal Organization, Contingency Theory, Resource Dependence, Institutional Theory, and Organizational Ecology theories, among many others.

Starting in the 1980s, cultural explanations of organizations and change became an important part of study. Qualitative methods of study became more acceptable, informed by anthropology, psychology and sociology. A leading scholar was Karl Weick.

Elton Mayo
Elton Mayo, an Australian national, headed the Hawthorne Studies at Harvard. In his classic writing in 1931, Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization, he advised managers to deal with emotional needs of employees at work.

Mary Parker Follett
Mary Parker Follett was a pioneer management consultant in the industrial world. As a writer, she provided analyses on workers as having complex combinations of attitude, beliefs, and needs. She told managers to motivate employees on their job performance, a "pull" rather than a "push" strategy.

Douglas McGregor
Douglas McGregor proposed two theories/assumptions, which are very nearly the opposite of each other, about human nature based on his experience as a management consultant. His first theory was "Theory X", which is pessimistic and negative; and according to McGregor it is how managers traditionally perceive their workers. Then, in order to help managers replace that theory/assumption, he gave "Theory Y" which takes a more modern and positive approach. He believed that managers could achieve more if they start perceiving their employees as self-energized, committed, responsible and creative beings. By means of his Theory Y, he in fact challenged the traditional theorists to adopt a developmental approach to their employees. He also wrote a book, The Human Side of Enterprise, in 1960; this book has become a foundation for the modern view of employees at work.

Current state of the field
Organizational behaviour is a growing field. Organizational studies departments generally form part of business schools, although many universities also have industrial psychology and industrial economics programs.

The field is highly influential in the business world with practitioners such as Peter Drucker and Peter Senge, who turned the academic research into business practices. Organizational behaviour is becoming more important in the global economy as people with diverse backgrounds and cultural values must work together effectively and efficiently. It is also under increasing criticism as a field for its ethnocentric and pro-capitalist assumptions (see Critical Management Studies).

During the last 20 years, organizational behavior study and practice has developed and expanded through creating integrations with other domains:

Anthropology became an interesting prism to understanding firms as communities, by introducing concepts like Organizational culture, 'organizational rituals' and 'symbolic acts' enabling new ways to understand organizations as communities.

Leadership Understanding: the crucial role of leadership at various level of an organization in the process of change management.

Ethics and their importance as pillars of any vision and one of the most important driving forces in an organization.

Aesthetics: Within the last decades a field emerged that focuses on the aesthetic sphere of our existence in organizations, drawing on interdisciplinary theories and methods from the humanities and disciplines such as theatre studies, literature, music, visual studies and many more.