Women in Technology Leadership | Organizational Theory

Organizations have been around for centuries and play an important role in society (Scott & Davis, 2007). Lounsbury and Ventresca (2003) wrote that organizations are generally shaped by broader processes driven by social and cultural forms. Early attempts at understanding organizations were more focused on the impact of organizations on society than the internal effect of the organization on its people, processes and external stakeholders (Lounsbury & Ventresca, 2003). Kessler (2001) explored organizational theory and found that the best practice for analyzing organizations is the “synthesis of streams and disciplines” (p. 287), suggesting that organizational theory has progressed to include considerations from “(a) classical doctrines such as scientific management and bureaucracy; (b) neoclassical theory such as human relations, power and politics, and decision-making schools; and (c) modern theory such as contingency, communication networks, and open systems models to (d) radical structuralist theory” (p. 287).

Woodilla and Forray (2008) suggested that organizations continue to struggle to apply the appropriate theory based on organizational need and the collective perceptions of the individuals. Kessler (2001) found that organizational theory is an attempt to “increase theoretical, empirical, and practical understanding of business and other types of organizations” (p. 288). According to Scott and Davis (2007), organizations should be analyzed as one would study any other social system, including studying the “communication, socialization and decision-making processes” (p. 7) that define the organization. Woodilla and Forray (2008) added justice as another social construct that presents itself in organizational theory, stating that scholars generally work to identify the “fair and objective” (p. 5) organizational practices envisioned by Max Weber in his framework for bureaucracy.

Early approaches to management theory included researchers providing specific advice about the best means to structure an organization (Kessler, 2001). The author argued that instead of providing measurable specifics of organizational function and construction, researchers should provide theoretical frameworks that can be used by organizational leaders as a model (Kessler, 2001). The resulting models can be used to define the function of an organization while determining the relevant variables for maximizing organizational efficiency (Zajac & Westphal, 2004).

According to Zajac and Westphal (2004), organizations can be described by using one or more of the following five models: rational, natural, open, socio-technical and post-modern systems. Rational organizations are “collectives that exhibit a relatively high degree of formalization” (Scott & Davis, 2007, p. 29). Rational organizations consist of formal structures, roles and processes regardless of the size and scope of the organization (Scott & Davis, 2007). Natural organizations take into account the social interests of the individuals within the organization (Scott & Davis, 2007). Natural organizations are based on the premise that no organization can devote all of its focus on producing products and services (Zajac & Westphal, 2004). An organization must be treated as a system, adaptive and considerate of human values and motivation (Zajac & Westphal, 2004). Open systems are self-regulating and import capability from the external environment (Scott & Davis, 2007).

Socio-technical systems were born out of systems-based approaches to organizational theory that incorporated the social aspects of change, including social and technical systems (Keating, Fernandez, Derya, & Kauffmann, 2001). Socio-technical systems include the concept of innovation and are a dynamic and operational system that supports the interaction between humans and technology (Keating, et al., 2001). Green (2007) stated that postmodernism systems are a threat to traditional natural, open and socio-technical systems, as they further deemphasize the role of the human resource in the organization. A study that explores how women were able to obtain and sustain their leadership positions must take into consideration the organizational environment in which the women sought the leadership role.