Concepts Fundamental to Organizing

Certain basic concepts for organizing are important to all of the preceding theories. Authority, influence, power, identification, loyalties, and responsibility are six terms that have special meanings in the thinking of organizing. Furthermore, economists’ assumptions used by economists about the economic man have evolved into a behavioral assumption commonly referred to as administrative man. These concepts provide additional foundations for organizational design.

Probably one of the most important and controversial contributions of modern theory involves the concept of authority. Barnard and Simon proposed an acceptance theory of authority, which states the view that a communication carries authority only if the receiver accepts it. This theory upset the traditional assumption that authority invariably flows from the top of a hierarchy. The apparent conflict in concepts of authority has resulted in two schools of though o the subject. The conflict is not necessarily great if one recognizes that the acceptance theory contributes a new perspective to the subject. One approach to reconciling the two theories would be to consider that a right to act which is delegated from the top must be met with the willingness and capacity to act which flows from below.

Several concepts related to authority are often confused with it. Persons with little or no authority may influence others through comments, advice, or suggestions, or by expediting, or blocking the flow of information. For example, the secretary of a chief executive may have no authority over subordinates in the organization but may have great influence. Influence implies a voluntary and even unconscious, manner of affecting the actions of others persuasion, suggestion, and other methods. Organization can be described by determining the flow of influences in the decision making process.

While the concept of authority remained important from its emphasis in classical theory and influence received special attention in participative approaches, the concept of power has only recently been emphasized. Authority is the right to act as indicated in the organizational hierarchy; influence is the effect of one person on the behavior of others. Power is the potential force that others perceive a person to possess that gives the capacity to influence actions of others Power, then, is a psychological force that identities the potential of a person as perceived by others. The design of structure helps to identify one’s authority and the interrelationship for influencing others, but power is a more general term that includes other sources of potential force in the organization. For example, a person may be low in the hierarchy of authority and yet have significant power as a result of personal characteristics, associations with family or political connections, expert knowledge or strategic duties, or physical location at an effective organization design.

Still another concept useful in understanding organizations elates to the manner in which individuals decide to participate in an organization by accepting its goals as theirs. This concept is referred to as identification with the organization. The idea is that self involvement of an individual is most important in organizational activities. At the time of a decision, this identification of the individual with the group enables the individual to accept the premises.