J. W. Meyer & B. Rowan, "Institutional organizations: formal structure as myth and ceremony," American Journal of Sociology, 83 (1977), 340-63.


"Organizations are driven to incorporate the practices and procedures defined by prefailing rationalized concepts of ogranizational work and institutionalized in society".

Many of these institutional items function as myths, and organizational adopt them ceremonially. But conformities to institutional rules can impact efficiency or control over technical systems, so organizations often develop buffering strategies to reduce the conflict.

This paper argues that formal structures reflect myths of institutional environments than demands of work activities.

"Institutionalization involves the process by which social processes obligations, or actualities take on a rulelike status in social thought and action."

"Prevailing theories assume that the coordination and control of activity are the critical dimensions onwhich formal organizations have succeeded inthe modern world". Yet there is a large gap between formal structures and how work REALLY gets done.

Another reason for rational structures is their institutional legitimacy. Notions of structure are embedded in the values of society. Many programs and policies are enforced by public opinion, knowledge "legitimated through eductional system", social prestige, laws, etc.

Some of the more common structural myths are professions, programs, and technologies. Some programs like seles, production, advertising, accounting, are institutional norms. Departments in a university are somewhat institutionalized. Their use "displays responsibility and avoids claims of negligence".

"These institutions are myths which make formal organizations both easier to create and more necessary."

Proposition 1: "As rationalized institutional rules arise in given domains of work activity, formal organizations form and expand by incorporating these rules as structural elements."

Proposition 2: "The more modernized the society, the more extended the rationlized instituional structure in given domains and the greater the number of domains containing rationlized institutions. "

"Organizations structurally reflect socially constructed reality"

The myths of "current best practice" are based on the supposition that they are rationally effective. Some myths have gained legal mandate.

Organizations become isomorphic with their institutional environment to maintain legitimacy. Dependence on external institutions reduces uncertainty. Legitimacy ensures survival.

The myths of job titles and occupations and organizational charts are "vocabularies of structure" . Using legitmate words helps legitimize. Failure to incorporate these mtyhs is seen as irrational and negligent.

Proposition 3: "Organizations that incorporate societally legitimated rationalized elements in their formal structures maximize their legitimacy and increase their resources and survival capabilities."

Often categorical rules conflict with efficiency. The organization can resolve this conflicts by decoupling.

 

Proposition 4: "Because attempts to control and coordinate activities in institutionalized organizations lead to conflicts and loss of legitimacy, elements of structure are decoupled from actitivities and from each other." Integration is avoided, program implementation is neglected, and inspection and evaluation is ceremonialized."

Confidence in structural elements is maintained through avoicance, discretion, andoverlooking. Others are delegation, professionalization, goal, ambiguity, elimination of output data, and maintaince of face. "They contricute to an aura of confidence withing and outside the organization". They maintain the assumption that people are acting in good faith.

 

Propostion 5: The more an organization's structure is derived from institutionalized myths, the more it maintaqins elaborate displays of confidence, satisfaction, and good faith, internally and externally.

 

Proposition 6: Institutionalized organizations seek to minimize inspection and evaluation by both internal managers and external constituents.