Organisation Theory


The goal of this course is to provide students with a working knowledge of the most important theoretical frameworks in organization theory. This is a precious gift, as insights from organization theory are at the heart of many sub-disciplines in management, including strategic management, corporate governance, innovation studies, stakeholder management, international business, and entrepreneurship. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to trace and understand the intellectual history of these theoretical frameworks, and recognize how their own work relates and may contribute to these overarching theoretical frameworks. As an additional ‘bonus’, the instructors will engage in a non-technical discussion of the major research designs used by organizational scholars–such as event history analysis, meta-analysis, fs/QCA, matching-based regressions, and ethnography–to arrive at a deeper understanding of how the ‘affordances’ of these designs are shaping the research questions organization theorists pursue. In particular, upon taking the course students should be ready to answer questions such as: Why do firms exist? Why are firms structured as they are? What is the role of myth and ceremony in organizational life? Why and how do organizations ally with other organizations and how does that matter? How can organizations manage their external dependencies? How does our perspective change when we switch from the organizational to the population level of analysis? How do coalitions, power, and reference points matter to organizational decision-making? In every class, we start with a discussion of these broad theoretical frameworks, followed by a discussion of how the methods employed by organizational scholars are pushing our theoretical frontiers.


The following topics are covered in this course:

(1) Bureaucracy Theory (Class 1)

(2) Institutional Theories of Organization (Class 2)

(2) Transaction Cost Theory and the Theory of the Firm (Class 3). 

(3) Ownership, Agency theory, and Corporate Governance (Class 4).

(5) Stakeholder Theory and Resource Dependence Theory (Class 5).

(6) Behavioural Theory of the Firm, Power, and Coalitions (Class 6)

(7) Optimal Distinctiveness Theory (Class 7)

(8) Field Evolution, Ecology, and Transformation (Class 8)


The course is organized as a seminar, implying that your cooperation and willingness to actively participate in the sessions will ensure that we jointly create the best possible learning environment. 

The grading of this course reflects this culture and pedagogy: (a) class participation (25%); (b) article presentation (25%); and concluding written assignment (50%).


The literature for this course will consist of carefully selected research articles and book chapters. The materials will include seminal contributions, more recent exemplary articles, and empirical illustrations. In addition to the mandatory readings, each class also comes with a longer list of background readings, to facilitate participants with a special interest in a particular topic. The materials are made available via a dedicated Canvas site.

Additional info

(This course was previously offered under the title "Strategy, Organization & Governance".)

The timetable for this course can be found here. (The linked timetable might not show all the sessions at one glance. Please scroll per month to see the schedule of the entire course.)

ERIM PhD candidates (Fulltime & Part-time) can register for this course via Osiris Student.

External (non-ERIM) participants are welcome to this course. To register, please fill in the registration form and e-mail it to the ERIM Doctoral Office by four weeks prior to the start of the course. For external participants, the course fee is 1300 euro.