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Organization ( Greek ὄργανον órganon , German tool ) is a homonym that can generally be translated as “accomplishment”. However, there are no clear definitions. Etymologically , according to Duden, "organization" is derived from the verb "organize" ("systematically organize, design, set up, build up"), which goes back to the French organe for "tool", "provided with organs", "to assemble into a viable whole".

Organization therefore also stands for the process of organizing through which “continuous independent actions are combined into reasonable consequences”, “so that reasonable results are achieved” or are combined in such a way that they lead to desired goals or results.

In addition, an organization can be a social or socio-technical system that arises from the planned and goal-oriented work of people, is different from the environment and - as a corporate actor ( Coleman ) - can interact with other actors .

In biology , organizations are known in the form of community building, team building (e.g. horde ) or state building (e.g. ant colony , also known as superorganism ).

Determination of organizations

In everyday language - but also in some of the strands of organizational research - the words "organization" and "organize" are used to describe a purpose-oriented, systematic regulation of processes. After this broad understanding of organization, however, one must then realize that it is organized almost always and everywhere. After all, not only organizations “organize” their decision-making processes, but families too, their coexistence, protest movements their demonstrations and groups of friends their parties.

In contrast to this broad use of the term organization, a narrower understanding of organizations has become established. In organizational sociology, “organization” denotes a special form of social structure that can be distinguished from other social structures such as families, groups, movements or networks. Three particular characteristics of organizations can be emphasized.

First, organizations can decide on the entry and exit of people and can therefore define conditions for membership to which the members (and only the members) have to submit. Members are aware that they have to leave the organization if they openly indicate that they are not following the organization's programs, disregarding communication channels or not accepting other people in the organization as communication partners.

Second, organizations give themselves purposes with which they direct decisions. Even if the purposeful assumption, still represented in the tradition of Max Weber, that organizations can be understood in terms of their purposes, could not prevail, purposes for structuring organizations play an important role. Like blinkers, they focus the organization's perspective on a few aspects that appear important and ignore everything else.

Thirdly, organizations are characterized by hierarchies that determine the superordinate and subordinate relationships of the members. Although the micro-politically oriented organizational sociology has convincingly worked out that members who are hierarchically lower down can have considerable sources of power, but hierarchical instructions on membership conditions can be followed and unpopular decisions can be enforced.

An essential characteristic of organizations is that they can decide for themselves how these three characteristics should be designed.

Different regulations of organizations

Both in general linguistic usage and in science (e.g. sociology , political science , business administration , computer science ) the term is used ambiguously and under changing aspects. Organization refers to a “structure” on the one hand, and a “process” on the other, to which purpose-oriented structures and actions are assigned.

Instrumental and functional point of view

The instrumental approach sees organization as the totality of all regulations that relate to the distribution of tasks and competencies as well as the handling of work processes. It is mainly used in business administration .

Procedural view

The procedural view regards organization as the act of organizing , i. H. the distribution of tasks to members of the organization ( division of labor ) and their alignment to overarching goals ( coordination ). Karl E. Weick understands his organizational image as an organizational psychological consideration in which the organization describes a group of people who try to make sense of the processes that happen around them.

Structural view

On the other hand, there is a structural understanding that relates to the organized structure. From a structural point of view, the organization is “a structure of interdependent actions”, which are “purposefully linked to one another in cooperation based on the division of labor and [interdependent] coordination [...]”. Every organization is also a system, but conversely, not every system is an organization. The social subsystems economy, politics and science, for example, consist of organizations, professions and institutions.


Since every science usually has a specialized view of the different meanings of organization, it is correspondingly difficult to compare the term with that of the institution . In part, one can find analogous meanings of institution, on the one hand as a set of rules (e.g. the institution of marriage) or as an organized structure (e.g. a court of law).

In contrast to everyday language, the term organization is clearly differentiated from the term institution in the social sciences : an organization is a consciously created, goal-oriented structure that has a founder and a date of foundation. Every organization has members. Institution, on the other hand, is a "set of rules" of behavioral patterns and norms that emerged from the social coexistence of people, i.e. from regularities of their behavior, as it were "naturally" (e.g. the institution of competition, hospitality, marriage, the funeral).

The general rule for institutions is that they are conceivable without members. For example, the university can be described on the one hand as an organization and on the other hand as an institution: As an organization, it is a social structure made up of teachers and learners as well as researchers, administrators and other employees who work together in a systematic, division of labor; As an institution, it is a social institution that serves to convey, pass on and generate practical and orientational knowledge.

Deviating from the social-scientific distinction between the two terms, the New Institutional Economics also subsumes organizations under its institutional term.

Organizational theories

Organizational theories aim to understand and explain the basic elements and functions of organizations, their formation and their (continued) existence in dynamic environments. There are a number of different organizational theories that try to do justice to the fact that organizations are highly complex structures. The object area - the organizations and their objectives - is the same for all theoretical approaches, but they only cover certain aspects of the broad object area. Important organizational theories are:

Organization in business administration

Relationship between organizational terms

In business administration , the three terms are recorded as follows:

  • instrumental point of view

For decades, the instrumental perspective was the predominant understanding of the concept of organization. With the aim of structuring and coordinating people, material resources and information based on specialization in order to achieve the company's goals .

There are two classic forms. On the one hand the functional concept according to Erich Gutenberg and on the other hand the configurative concept according to Erich Kosiol .

In this context, elements such as formal and informal organization also come into play.

  • institutional point of view

Organizations are social systems that are relatively stable over time and consist of individuals who pursue common goals.

Organizations are often classified according to general target systems as follows:

  • Organizations whose aim is to provide services in the form of goods and services ( production companies and service companies ) or to achieve certain external effects (e.g. administrative authorities, police, political parties , interest groups, trade unions, etc.);
  • Organizations whose goals are aimed at changing people (e.g. schools, universities, hospitals, advice centers, prisons, etc.). This type of target is usually called a non-profit organization .

Organization in the field of organizational behavior

The interdisciplinary subject area Organizational Behavior deals with the analysis of human behavior in organizations and with the possibilities of targeted influence. To do this, u. a. social rules , processes , functions , structures , as well as various other contexts (e.g. expectations, behavior or meaning) are considered in terms of their behavior-controlling effects.

Marketable organizations therefore essentially consist of the communication of and about decisions, whereby each individual decision is linked to previous decisions and is itself a prerequisite for subsequent decisions. In view of the effective reciprocal references of the decisions to other decisions in the interfaces along the value-added processes based on the division of labor, a recursive decision-making network results, the self-reflection of which is based on internal decision-oriented communication processes.

Organization in Sociology

Sociology regards organization as a genuine subject in its field. Talcott Parsons saw the organization as "the most important mechanism for a highly differentiated society to 'keep the system going' and to achieve goals that are beyond the capabilities of the individual". Although Max Weber was one of the first sociologists to put bureaucratic organization at the center of his sociology, it was only after the Second World War that organizational sociology came to Germany via the detour of American sociology, which Weber was the first organizational sociologist to discover; the works of Renate Mayntz , who studied in the USA.

Organization in political science

A separate political organization theory has  not yet been implemented , despite research into parties , for example . But with the 21st century, the growing importance of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) opens up new fields of research. They range - for example - from the Red Cross to al-Qaeda .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Organization  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Organization - definition in the Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon.
  2. Friedemann, W. Nerdinger, Gerhard Blickle, Niclas Schaper: Industrial and organizational psychology . 1st edition. Springer, 2008, ISBN 3-540-74704-4 , p. 48.
  3. Duden Etymologie Origin dictionary of the German language , new spelling: 7 - The dictionary of origin , ISBN 3-411-20907-0 .
  4. ^ A b Karl E. Weick : The process of organizing . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 11.
  5. ^ Stefan Kühl: Organizations. A very brief introduction. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2011, p. 11.
  6. ^ A b c d Stefan Kühl: Organizations. A very brief introduction. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-531-17978-0 , p. 16-22 .
  7. ^ Niklas Luhmann: Functions and consequences of formal organization. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, p. 44 f.
  8. Niklas Luhmann: Concept of Purpose and System Rationality. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1973, p. 46.
  9. Michel Crozier, Erhard Friedberg: Power and Organization. The pressures of collective action. Äthenäum, Berlin 1979.
  10. ^ Karl E. Weick: Sensemaking in Organizations: Small Structures with Large Consequences . In: Karl E. Weick: Making Sense of the Organization . Blackwell Publishing, 2001, ISBN 978-0-631-22319-1 , p. 5; The original quote is: “ Thus, I view organizations as collections of people trying to make sense of what is happening around them.
  11. ^ Walther Müller-Jentsch: Organizational Sociology. An introduction . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 19.
  12. ^ Georg Schreyögg: Organization: Basics of modern organizational design. With case studies . 5th edition. Gabler, 2008, ISBN 3-8349-0703-0 , p. 3.
  13. Talcott Parsons: Structure and Process in Modern Society , Glencoe 1960, cit. according to Walther Müller-Jentsch organizational sociology . An introduction . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 17.
  14. ^ Renate Mayntz: Sociology of Organization , Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965; this. (Ed.): Bureaucratic organization . 2nd Edition. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1971.