Institutional Theory and Bridging Strategies

Meyer and Rowan (1977) and DiMaggio and Powell (1983) "propose that isomorphism is the master bridging process in institutional environments: by incorporating institutional rules within their own structures, organizations become more homogeneous, more similar in structure, over time" (primarily within a particular institutional environment and context) (Scott p. 209).

Dimaggio and Power identify three general mechanisms of isomorphism:

1. Coercive isomorphism (when organization is compelled to adopt stuctures or rules).
2. Mimetic isomorphism (when one organization copies another, often because of uncertainty)
3. Normative isomorphism (when the organization adopts forms because professionals in the organization claim they are superior).

Categorical Conformity
This occurs when institutional rules serve as guidelines through which orgnizations can pattern their structures. These conventions often increase homogeniety among structures (e.g, university departments). These conventions become "vocabularies of structure" (Meyer and Rowan, 1977). "Organizations incorporate these cognitive belief systems because doing so enhances their legitimacy and hence increases their resources and survival capacities." (Scott p. 210).

Structural Conformity
Due to government regulation, environmental uncertainty, or desire for legitimacy, firms will adopt specific organizational structures (often by hiring personnel from successful firms or hiring consultants). Goverments often impose new roles within organizations, such as safety officers or affirmative action groups. Professional groups also impose certain guidelines through accreditation programs.

Procedural Conformity
Besides structures, organizations are often influenced to do things in certain ways too. Sometimes compliance or adoption is the result of uncertainty or of coercive or normative means. Many of the "rational myths" outlined by Meyer and Rowan (1977) are procedural in nature -- total quality programs, PERT charts often become standard operating procedures. The two main groups generating these procedural requirements are governments and professional groups (Dimaggio and Powell, 1983). Lawyers straddle both arenas and are particularily powerful in shaping organizational procedures (Scott p. 211).

One issue is that these procedures quickly become separated from outcomes, and end up as "red tape".

Personnel Conformity
Modern organizations have many specialized roles filled by certified professionals (especially in Western organizations). "Conformity to institutional rules often entails the hiring of specific types of personnel" (Scott p. 212). Licensing or accreditation requirements often specify a certain % of "qualified" personnel in key positions. Certification is an important source of legitimization (Scott p. 212).

Educational requirements are also increasingly part of job positions, even though there isn't a clear relationship between educational attainment and job productivity. It seems its more of an institutional artifact than a technical one based on effectiveness. "Hiring certified or educated employees signals to the environment that the employer is a modern, responsible firm employing rational criteria of personnel selection and promotion" (Scott p. 213).