Institutional Theory

702 words | 3 page(s)

The increased popularity of institutional work suggests an agentic change in institutional approaches and organizational strategies (Hwang & Colybas, p. 66), and it is for this reason that it is important to be able to work to understand the basic components of the institutionalized setting. Institutional theory may help to explain how institutionalized realities remain stable over time. The study completed by Hardy and Phillips (1999) looked into the Canadian refugee system, and through a review of this particular study, it is possible to see how this stability occurs.

Their study works to compare the actions of individuals within the institutional field to the political cartoons that work to reference this particular type of work. By reviewing the normative pressures placed upon immigrants in the Canadian refugee system, Hardy and Phillips were able to show how institutional logic works to create the stability of the institutionalized reality (p. 2). An individual becomes institutionalized as a result of adopting to the normative practices within the given institution, and as a result their reality shifts so that their whole world is focused around following the practices and procedures that were put in place within the institution, often to such a degree as adjustment back to life outside of the institution is difficult if not impossible in some cases (Boundless, 2013). Institutional theory further serves to illustrate how institutionalized realities are able to change while still working to remain institutionalized realities, i.e. different from the conventional reality that those who function outside of the institutional setting are a part of. The process by which this is possible is through the method of refocusing the institutional studies of organization, and changing the way that individuals think about their work inside of the institutions (Suddaby, p.14).

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It is argued that if the individual who is working within the institution is able to change the manner in which they think, looking at what they do as not institutional work, but work within an institution, the manner in which care is provided, the social structures, and even the relationships present within the institution will be able to change (Kaghan & Lounsbury, p.73). It is important to remember that all though the institutional environment is one of capitalism, that the administration of the institution itself should concentrate more on the individuals present within the institution as opposed to the hard facts of funding alone, allowing for a shift in the priorities to change from that of a strict bureaucratic organization to one that works to assist those within its walls (DiMaggio & Powell, p. 147).

By working to refocus the institutional studies of the organization, the focus may shift to looking at the practices of the individual workers within the organization, thereby allowing for a new organizational structure to be conceptualized and a more efficient and effective method of working to be located and implemented (Lawrence, Suddaby, & Leca, p. 52).

In order to make any organizational change it is necessary to start the process with the people who have disproportionate influence within the organization (How to Change Your Organization’s Culture, 2013); in the instance of an institutionalized setting, this means starting with the administration. Institutional theory works to provide the structure and the conceptualization behind the institution, it is true, but there is still room for change within the institution itself, and working to affect this institutional work through organizational change is one such manner in which this may be accomplished.

  • Boundless. “Institutional Syndrome.” Definition of Institutional Syndrome. Boundless, 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013. https://www.boundless.com/
  • DiMaggio, Paul, and Walter Powell. “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields.” American Sociological Review 48.2 (1983): 147-60. Print.
  • Hardy, C., and N. Phillips. “No Joking Matter: Discursive Struggle in the Canadian Refugee System.” Organization Studies 20.1 (1999): 1-24. Print.
  • “How to Change Your Organization’s Culture.” Management RSS. Wall Street Journal, 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013. http://guides.wsj.com
  • Hwang, Hokyu, and Jeannette Colyvas. “Problematizing Actors and Institutions in Institutional Work.” Journal of Management Inquiry 20.1 (2011): 62-66. Print.
  • Kaghan, William, and Michael Lounsbury. “Institutions and Work.” Journal of Management Inquiry 20.1 (2011): 73-81. Print.
  • Lawrence, Thomas, Roy Suddaby, and Bernard Leca. “Institutional Work: Refocusing Institutional Studies of Organization.” Journal of Management Inquiry 20.1 (2011): 52-58. Print.
  • Suddaby, Roy. “Challenges for Institutional Theory.” Journal of Management Inquiry 19.1 (2010): 14-20. Print.

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