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University of Exeter Business School

Macro-Level Organisation Theory

Module titleMacro-Level Organisation Theory
Module codeBEMM217
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Stefano Tasselli (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module we will discuss macro-level organisation theories that are commonly used in management research. Macro-level theories focus on topics such as organisational learning, organisational boundaries, organisational structures, and governance. Understanding these key theories is one of the critical components of management research and is essential for designing research, writing a literature review and discussing the theoretical implication of your research. This module will facilitate an understanding of the field of management with regard to its approach to theory building and testing. Students will development key scholarship skills, such as the critique of papers, developing research questions, testable hypotheses, and research designs.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • Prepare students for independent research informed by the main macro-level organisation theories utilised in management research
  • Ensure that students are familiar with the major foundational organisation theories applied in management (such as economic theories of organisations, institutional theories of organisations, network theory, decision making theory)
  • Introduce students to key theoretical concepts that underpin our understanding of macro-level phenomenon in organisations
  • Enable students to build their research on sound theoretical principles
  • Equip students with skills to critically evaluate key macro-level theories used in management research and compare different perspectives/theories, their advantages and disadvantages within the context of management research and identify gaps in these theories

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the foundational macro-level theories of organisations relevant to business and management research
  • 2. Evaluate the importance of macro-level organisational theory within business and management research

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Apply theoretical principles to analyse macro-level organisational theories
  • 4. Critically evaluate organisational theories and identify theoretical gaps
  • 5. Demonstrate the ability to independently review (i.e., understand, synthesise and critically evaluate) academic work that discusses or uses such theories.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Critically assess competing theories
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to build theoretical arguments within management research

Syllabus plan

Introduction to key organisation theories and how they are used as frameworks in the study of management. Theories we will cover include decision making theory, institutional theories of organisations, network theory, economic theories of organizations such as transaction costs and dynamic capabilities, etc.

Sessions will involve the discussion and analysis of papers and book chapters that demonstrate the link between key theories and topics such as decision making, organisational learning, organisational boundaries, organisational structures, and change. Students will be encouraged to identify and articulate the key principles involved within each topic area and to subject these to critical evaluation within a business research context. This critical evaluation will include a discussion on how to identify theoretical gaps to guide research questions. Students will also discuss how and when to  integrate different theories.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Seminar22The seminars will be a mixture of tutor-led and student-led discussions of key papers and book chapters. Students will be required to read each of the papers before the session. The discussion will focus on a critical analysis of each theoretical topic
Pre-reading of articles40Read all assigned articles prior to each session
Assessment preparation88Reading and writing related to the two assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Regular verbal feedback on in-class on discussion and participatory activitiesRegular discussion in seminar1,2,3,4,5,6,7Verbal feedback to individual students and the rest of the seminar participants

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Written Assignment603000 words1,2,3,4,5,7Written feedback and grade
Individual Presentation4030 minute presentation – including questions1,2,3,4,5,6,7Oral and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual Written AssignmentIndividual Written Assignment1,2,3,4,5,7August Reassessment Period
Individual PresentationRecorded presentation1,2,3,4,5,6,7Within 6 weeks

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: Weekly reading provided by lecturer (academic journal articles)

Indicative readings:

March, James G. 1991. Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning. Organization Science 2(1): 71-87.

Puranam, P., Raveendran, M. & T. Knudsen. 2012. Organization design: The epistemic interdependence perspective. Academy of Management Review 37: 419-440.

Davis, G. & J.A. Cobb. 2009. “Resource Dependence Theory: Past and Future.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations.

Dobrev, S.D. & Kim, T.Y. 2006. Positioning among Organizations in a Population: Moves between Market Segments and the Evolution of Industry Structure. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51(2): 230-261.

Battilana, J., Dorado, S. 2010. Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations..Academy of Management Journal, 53: 1419-1440.

Cohen, Wesley and Daniel Levinthal. 1990. Absorptive Capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. ASQ 35: 128-52.

Thompson, James D. 1967. Organizations in Action. McGraw-Hill, pp.1-65.

Perrow, Charles. 1967. A Framework for the Comparative Analysis of Organizations. ASR 32(2):194-208.

Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1990. Information and Organizations. University of California Press. Read the first and last chapters.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey and Gerald Salancik. 1978. The External Control of Organizations. Harper & Row, Chs. 3 and 4, pp. 39-91.

Coase, R. H. 1937. The nature of the firm. Economica 386-405.

Williamson, Oliver E. 1996. Transaction Cost Economics and Organization Theory. Ch. 9 in The Mechanisms of Governance, Oxford University Press.

Meyer, John W., and Brian Rowan 1977. Institutional organizations: Structure as myth and ceremony. AJS 83: 340-63.

DiMaggio, Paul J. and Walter W. Powell 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. ASR 48: 147-60.

Hannan, Michael T. and John Freeman. 1977. The population ecology of organizations. AJS 82: 929-64.

Carroll, Glenn and Anand Swaminathan. 2000. Why the Microbrewery Movement? Organizational Dynamics of Resource Partitioning in the U.S. Brewing Industry. AJS 106(3): 715-762.

Granovetter, Mark 1985. Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. AJS 91:481-510.

Powell, Walter W. 1990. Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. Research in Organization Behavior, 12: 295-336, Barry M. Staw and L. L. Cummings, eds. JAI.

Burt, Ron. 1992. Structural Holes. Harvard University Press. Ch. 1, The Social Structure of Competition, pp. 8-49.

Key words search

Macro-level organisation theory

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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