Jay Lorsch

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jay William Lorsch (born October 8, 1932 in Saint Joseph (Missouri) ) is the Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations at Harvard Business School . He achieved particular fame through his contributions to the contingency theory, which he worked on together with Paul R. Lawrence and which became known in German-speaking countries as a situational approach .

Life and research

Jay Lorsch was born on October 8, 1932 in Saint Joseph, Missouri, as the son of Hans Lorsch and his wife Serina, a librarian. Lorsch grew up in Kansas City, Missouri . After graduating from Antioch College in 1955, Lorsch continued his studies at Columbia University until obtaining his master’s degree in 1956. from 1956 to 59 he served as a lieutenant in the Army Finance Corps. In 1964, Lorsch received his doctorate in business administration from Harvard Business School. In 1964 he started teaching organizational behavior at Harvard Business School and was appointed full professor in 1972. In 1978, Lorsch was appointed Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations at Harvard Business School.

Lorsch established his reputation in his collaboration with Paul Lawrence in the 1960s and 70s. Your most cited work, Organization and Environment? , deals with contingency theory for organizations. They take the position that there is no best form for organizations, but that the organization must bow to circumstances (contingencies).

They examined six companies in the chemical industry to ensure a similar environment. Her interest centered on the integration and differentiation of corporate sub-units and how these sub-units related to the corporate environment. They obtained the information through interviews with executives in what was then an extremely dynamic industry. The operational definitions used were:

"Differentiation ... 'the state of segmentation of the organizational systems into subsystems, each of which tends to develop particular attributes in relation to the requirements posed by it relevant external environment.'."

"Differentiation ... is the state of the segmentation of the organizational systems into subsystems, each of which tends to develop its own attributes in order to be able to meet the requirements of the relevant external environment."

- Lawrence and Lorsch

"... integration ... 'the process of achieving unity of effort amongst the various subsystems in the accomplishment of the organization's task.'"

"Integration ... the process with which a unity of efforts between the various subsystems to achieve the entrepreneurial tasks is achieved."

- Lawrence and Lorsch

They described the requirements of the environment as very uncertain for science / product change, medium uncertainty for the market situation and very safe for the technological-economic areas. A high degree of integration was required between the sales and research departments, as well as between the research and production departments. They summarized their findings:

  1. Structure: Production departments tended to have the most structure. Basic research was the least structured. the variability between the subsystems was considerable.
  2. Orientation towards interpersonal relationships: Sales departments tended to be more social, production departments more task-oriented.
  3. Time orientation: Feedback times tended to be the shortest for the sales departments and the longest for research and development.
  4. Goal orientation: As expected, salespeople were more concerned with the market subsystems, production more with technical-economic factors. Development and research staff were interested in both areas.

The data confirmed that more differentiated systems had more problems integrating. By ranking the market performance and comparing the differentiation and integration determined, the researchers were able to confirm that highly differentiated companies performed better in the market when they also achieved strong integration.

Lorsch transferred his experience with the contingencies to later work that he carried out with JJ Morse and others.

In 2005 Lorsch was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .



  • 1965: Product Innovation and Organization
  • 1969: Organizational Development: Diagnosis and Action (with Paul R. Lawrence)
  • 1986: Organization and environment: managing differentiation and integration (with Paul R. Lawrence)
  • 2002: Aligning the stars: how to succeed when professionals drive results (with Thomas J. Tierney)
  • 2003: Back to the Drawing Board: Designing Corporate Boards for a Complex World (with Colin Carter)


  • Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch (1967): Differentiation and Integration in Complex Systems , Administrative Science Quarterly, 12 (1), pp. 1-47

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j Morgen Witzel: Encyclopedia of History of American Management . Ed .: Morgen Witzel. A&C Black, 2005, ISBN 978-1-84371-131-5 , pp. 336-337 (English).
  2. a b c d e Jay W. Lorsch. Louis E. Kirstein Professor of Human Relations. Harvard Business School, accessed July 9, 2018 .
  3. Jay W. Lorsch. Executive profiles. Bloomberg, accessed November 29, 2018 .
  4. a b Fons Trompenaars , Piet-Hein Coebergh : 100+ management models - How to understand and apply the world's most powerful business tools . Infinite Ideas, 2014, ISBN 978-1-909652-80-4 (English).
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k Paul Lawrence, Jay Lorsch: Differentiation and Integration in Complex Organizations . In: Administrative Science Quarterly . tape 12 , 1967, p. 1-47 , doi : 10.2307 / 2391211 (English).
  6. Book of Members 1780 – present, Chapter L. (PDF; 1.1 MB) In: American Academy of Arts and Sciences (amacad.org). Accessed July 15, 2018 .