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