To what extent is the study of organizational behavior important to the success of the organization?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The study of organizational behavior is quite important to the success of an organization, if one's study is applied to that organization. These theories are of little use in a vacuum, but when we apply the principles, they are of great use. 

Organizational behavior is simply the macro effect of all the people in the organization interacting with one another, much as all the bees in a hive interact in a way to form an "organized" hive.  How the organization "behaves" is the collective or synergistic result of individuals' actions. 

Let's look at one example of how this works. We might have an organization that is unproductive or unprofitable. The study of organizational behavior helps us to examine the organization to see how it can be more productive or profitable. 

We can look at the managers in the organization to see how they interact with employees.  We want to know if they are motivating the employees effectively or perhaps demotivating them somehow.  A manager who is motivating all employees well is going to be providing a better environment for the organization to succeed. 

We can look at the structure of the organization. A structure that has too many levels can create inefficiencies.  Does the organization really need two different levels of middle management, for example?  Or an organization can have too few levels, so that one person is responsible for managing too many people. The structure of an organization can interfere with good communication or promote it, too. If information must go through too many levels, either up or down, it is not efficient, and much can be lost along the way.  Another aspect of structure that can be examined is its horizontal divisions.  The organization might be organized by function, by geography, or by product lines.  There is usually one way to structure any given organization that is going to be more effective and efficient than others.

We can look at the culture of an organization, which can help us analyze productivity and profit.  Is the culture laid back? This might be part of the problem. Or if the culture is too strict, this could create a problem, too. Depending on the organization's mission, one culture is going to be a better fit than another.  In an organization with a creative mission, a laid back culture might promote greater productivity, while too strict a culture could repress it. Conversely, if the organization is manufacturing a good, a laid back culture is not going to help move parts along on the assembly line.

We can also examine relationships in various departments, in an effort to isolate a problem that is departmental, rather than systemic.  The manager of one department might be a poor leader, and the behavior of the department is consequently harming the organization's bottom line.

We can also have a look at relationships amongst various departments. The communication could be poor, for instance.  The production department may have produced a million toasters, while the marketing division was not aware of this and has not developed any plan to sell all the toasters.  A research and development division may have a brilliant idea, but without the finance division knowing about it, there is no money to develop the idea.  Departments and divisions can get in one another's way. 

The whole point to the study of organizational behavior is its application to a particular organization.  There are many useful principles that have been gleaned over the years, through the observation of thousands, perhaps millions, of organizations.  These principles can be applied to most organization, in a way that can help make them far more successful.