July 28th, 2012 Paul Lawrence
Paul R. Lawrence is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Organizational Behavior, Emeritus at Harvard Business School where he served nine years as chairman of the Organizational Behavior area and also as chairman of both the MBA and AMP programs. He did his undergraduate work in sociology and economics at Albion College and did MBA and doctoral training at Harvard.
His research, published in 24 books and numberous articles, has dealt primarily with organizational change, organization design, and the relationship between the structural charactertistics of complex organizations and the technical, market and other conditions of their immediate environment. His 1967 book, Organization and Enviroment (written with Professor Jay Lorsch), added "contingency theory" to the vocabulary of students of Organizational Behavior.
Paul R. Lawrence has also, with others, made a comparative study of Soviet management practices that was published in 1990 as Behind the Factory Walls: Decison Making in Soviet and U.S. Enterprises.
Contingency Perspective and Organization Theory
Environmental change and uncertainty, work technology, and the size of a company are all identified as environmental factors impacting the effectiveness of different organizational forms. According to the contingency perspective, stable environments suggest mechanistic structures that emphasize centralization, formalization, standardization, and specialization to achieve efficiency and consistency. Certainty and predictability permit the use of policies, rules, and procedures to guide decision making for routine tasks and problems. Unstable environments suggest organic structures which emphasize decentralization to achieve flexibility and adaptability. Uncertainty and unpredictability require general problem solving methods for nonroutine tasks and problems. Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch suggest that organizational units operating in differing environments develop different internal unit characteristics, and that the greater the internal differences, the greater the need for coordination between units.
Joan Woodward found that financially successful manufacturing organizations with different types of work technologies (such as unit or small batch; large-batch or mass-production; or continuous-process) differed in the number of management levels, span of management, and the degree of worker specialization. She linked differences in organization to firm performance and suggested that certain organizational forms were appropriate for certain types of work technologies.
Organizational size is another contingency variable thought to impact the effectiveness of different organizational forms. Small organizations can behave informally while larger organizations tend to become more formalized. The owner of a small organization may directly control most things, but large organizations require more complex and indirect control mechanisms. Large organizations can have more specialized staff, units, and jobs. Hence, a divisional structure is not appropriate for a small organization but may be for a large organization.
In addition to the contingencies identified above, customer diversity and the globalization of business may require product or service diversity, employee diversity, and even the creation of special units or divisions. Organizations operating within the United States may have to adapt to variations in local, state, and federal laws and regulations. Organizations operating internationally may have to adapt their organizational structures, managerial practices, and products or services to differing cultural values, expectations, and preferences. The availability of support institutions and the availability and cost of financial resources may influence an organization's decision to produce or purchase new products. Economic conditions can affect an organization's hiring and layoff practices as well as wage, salary, and incentive structures. Technological change can significantly affect an organization. The use of robotics affects the level and types of skills needed in employees. Modern information technology both permits and requires changes in communication and interaction patterns within and between organizations.
Lawrence, Paul R., and Nitin Nohria. Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
Lawrence, Paul R., Louis B. Barnes, and Jay W. Lorsch, eds. Organizational Behavior and Administration: Cases and Readings. 3rd ed. Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin Inc., 1976.
Lorsch, J. W., and Paul R. Lawrence, eds. Managing Group and Intergroup Relations. Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin Inc., 1972.Dalton, Gene W., Paul R. Lawrence, and J. W. Lorsch, eds. Organizational Structure and Design. Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin Inc., 1970.
Lorsch, J. W., and Paul R. Lawrence, eds. Studies in Organization Design. Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin Inc., 1970.
Lorsch, J. W., and Paul R. Lawrence. Organizational Development: Diagnosis and Action. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1969.
Lawrence, Paul R., and J. W. Lorsch. Organization and Environment. Boston, Mass.: HBS Division of Research, 1967. (Reissued as a Harvard Business School Classic, Harvard Business School Press, 1986.)
Gulati, Ranjay, P. Lawrence, and P. Puranam. "Adaptation in Vertical Relationships: Beyond Incentive Conflict." Strategic Management Journal 26, no. 12 (December 2005): 415-440.
Vlachoutsicos, Charalambos A., and P. R. Lawrence. "ï¿½Donï¿½ts" And "Do'sï¿½: Insights From Experience In Mitigating Risks Of Western Investors In Post-Communist Countries." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 07-041.
Lawrence, Paul R., and Charalambos A. Vlachoutsicos. "Bridging Over Troubled Waters." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 04-022, 2003.
Lawrence, Paul R. "Toward a Unified Theory of Organizational Life." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 98-048, 1997.