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Stakeholders of an organization.

An organisation (or organization) is a group of people, operating within a defined structure, cooperating for some agreed-upon purpose.

Before 19th century
19th century
20th century, first half : 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s
20th century, second half : 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s
21st century, first half : 2000s, 2010s
See also , External links


All quotes in every section are arranged in chronological order

Before 19th century[edit]

  • Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.
    • Sun Tzu (c. 6th century BC) The Art of War

19th century[edit]

  • The establishment of "The Times" newspaper is an example, on a large scale, of a manufactory in which the division of labour, both mental and bodily, is admirably illustrated, and in which also the effect of domestic economy is well exemplified. It is scarcely imagined, by the thousands who read that paper in various quarters of the globe, what a scene of organized activity the factory presents during the whole night, or what a quantity of talent and mechanical skill is put in action for their amusement and information.
    • Charles Babbage, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832) p. 270; Ch. 28 "Proper circumstances for the application of machinery."
Organizational diagram of the New York and Erie Railroad by McCallum, 1855
  • Man experiences a multitude of needs, on whose satisfaction his happiness depends, and whose non-satisfaction entails sufferingAlone and isolated, he could only provide in an incomplete, insufficient manner for these incessant needs.  The instinct of sociability brings him together with similar persons, and drives him into communication with them.  Therefore, impelled by the self-interest of the individuals thus brought together, a certain division of labor is established, necessarily followed by exchanges.  In brief, we see an organization emerge, by means of which man can more completely satisfy his needs than he could living in isolation.

    This natural organization is called society.

    The object of society is therefore the most complete satisfaction of man's needs.  The division of labor and exchange are the means by which this is accomplished.

  • The magnitude of the business of this road, its numerous and important connections, and. the large number of employés engaged in operating it, have led many, whose opinions are entitled to respect, to the conclusion, that a proper regard to details, which enter so largely into the elements of success in the management of all railroads, cannot possibly be attained by any plan that contemplates its organization as a whole ; and in proof of this position, the experience of shorter roads is referred to, the business operations of which have been conducted much more economically.

20th century, first half[edit]


  • The administrative function has many duties. It has to foresee and make preparations to meet the financial, commercial, and technical conditions under which the concern must be started and run. It deals with the organization, selection, and management of the staff. It is the means by which the various parts of the undertaking communicate with the outside world, etc. Although this list is incomplete, it gives us an idea of the importance of the administrative function. The sole fact that it is in charge of the staff makes it in most cases the predominant function, for we all know that, even if a firm has perfect machinery and manufacturing processes, it is doomed to failure if it is run by an inefficient staff.
    • Henri Fayol, (1900) Henri Fayol addressed his colleagues in the mineral industry 23 June 1900


In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.
- Frederick Winslow Taylor (1911)
(1) Science, not rule of thumb.
(2) Harmony, not discord.
(3) Cooperation, not competition.
(4) Maximum output, not restricted output.
(5) The development of each man to his greatest efficiency and prosperity.
  • Herbert N. Casson. Ads and Sales: A Study of Advertising and Selling, from the Standpoint of new principles of scientific management. Published 1911, p. 8
  • Comment: While later in the 20th century theory started to speak of management and organization, the scientific management movement spoke of management and efficiency. In a way the listed principles of efficiency are a listing of principles of organization.
  • The supreme principle [in Industrial Organization] has been the belief that business efficiency and the welfare of the employees are but different sides of the same problem. Character is an economic asset ; and business efficiency depends not merely on the physical condition of employees, but on their general attitude and feeling towards the employer.
  • The test of any scheme of factory organization is the extent to which it creates and fosters the atmosphere and spirit of cooperation and good-will, without in any sense lessening the loyalty of the worker to his own class and its organizations.
  • In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first. This in no sense, however, implies that great men are not needed. On the contrary, the first object of any good system must be that of developing first-class men.


  • Tektology must clarify the modes of organization that are perceived to exist in nature and human activity; then it must generalize and systematize these modes; further it must explain them, that is, propose abstract schemes of their tendencies and laws; finally, based on these schemes, determine the direction of organizational methods and their role in the universal process. This general plan is similar to the plan of any natural science; but the objective of tektology is basically different. Tektology deals with organizational experiences not of this or that specialized field, but of all these fields together. In other words, tektology embraces the subject matter of all the other sciences and of all the human experience giving rise to these sciences, but only from the aspect of method, that is, it is interested only in the modes of organization of this subject matter.
    • Alexander Bogdanov. Tektologia: Vseobshchaya Organizatsionnaya Nauka (Tektology. The Universal Organizational Science) (Moscow, Izdatelstvo Z. I. Grschebina, 1922. p. 82.


  • Organization is as old as human society itself.
    • James D. Mooney Mooney and A.C. Reilley, Onward Industry!, New York: Harper and Bros, 1931. p. xiii.
  • An organization comes into being when (1) there are persons able to communicate with each other (2) who are willing to contribute action (3) to accomplish a common purpose. The elements of an organization are therefore (1) communication; (2) willingness to serve; and (3) common purpose. These elements are necessary and sufficient conditions initially, and they are found in all such organizations. The third element, purpose, is implicit in the definition. Willingness to serve, and communication, and the interdependence of the three elements in general, and their mutual dependence in specifie cooperative systems, are matters of experience and observation.


  • The most important thing about organizations is that, though they are tools, each nevertheless has a life of its own.
    • Philip Selznick (1949). TVA and the grass roots : a study in the sociology of formal organization, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 10

20th century, second half[edit]


  • Almost every organization... exhibits two faces — a smiling face which it turns toward its members and a frowning face which it turns to the world outside.
    • Kenneth Boulding (1953) The Organizational Revolution: A Study in the Ethics of Economic Organization, Harper & Brothers. p. 10
  • General Systems Theory... possibly the model of the world as a great organization can help to reinforce the sense of reverence for the living which we have almost lost.
  • Today our main problem is that of organized complexity. Concepts like those of organization, wholeness, directiveness, teleology, control, self-regulation, differentiation and the like are alien to conventional physics. However, they pop up everywhere in the biological, behavioural and social sciences, and are, in fact, indispensable for dealing with living organisms or social groups. Thus, a basic problem posed to modern science is a general theory of organization.
    • Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1956) "General System Theory". In: General Systems, Yearbook of the Society for General Systems Research, vol. 1, 1956.
  • As a formal analytical point of reference, primacy of orientation to the attainment of a specific goal is used as the defining characteristic of an organization which distinguishes it from other types of social systems.
    • Talcott Parsons (1956: 64); Partly cited in: Chiara Demartini (2013). Performance Management Systems: Design, Diagnosis and Use. p. 17
  • Management has a design and operation function, as does engineering. The design is usually done under the heading of organization. It should be noted first that the performance of a group of people is a strong function of the capabilities of the individuals and a rather weak function of the way they are organized. That is, good people do a fairly good job under almost any organization and a somewhat better one when the organization is good. Poor talent does a poor job with a bad organization, but it is still a poor job no matter what the organization. Repeated reorganizations are noted in groups of individuals poorly suited to their function, though no amount of good organization will give good performance. The best architectural design fails with poor bricks and mortar. But the payoff from good organization with good people is worthwhile.
  • An organization is a group of living human beings. The formal or official design for living never completely accounts for what the participants do. It is always supplemented by what is called the “informal structure,” which arises as the individual brings into play his own personality, his special problems and interests. Formal relations co-ordinate roles or specialized activities, not persons.
    • Philip Selznick, Leadership in Administration: A Sociological Interpretation, 1957, 2011. p. 8


  • Formal theories of organization have been taught in management courses for many years, and there is an extensive literature on the subject. The textbook principles of organization — hierarchical structure, authority, unity of command, task specialization, division of staff and line, span of control, equality of responsibility and authority, etc. — comprise a logically persuasive set of assumptions which have had a profound influence upon managerial behavior.
    • Douglas McGregor (1960), The Human Side of Enterprise; p. 15. Annotated Edition, 2006, p. 21.
  • Classical organization theory suffers from "ethnocentrism": It ignores the significance of the political, social, and economic milieu in shaping organizations and influencing managerial practice.
    • Douglas McGregor (1960), The Human Side of Enterprise; p. 16. Annotated Edition, 2006, p. 23.
  • The basic problem of social organization is how to co-ordinate the economic activities of large numbers of people.
    • Milton Friedman Capitalism and Freedom (1962) Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • I firmly believe that any organization, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions.
    Next I believe that the most important single factor in corporate success is faithful adherence to those beliefs.
    And, finally I believe if an organization is to meet the challenge of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.
    Basic philosophy, spirit and drive of an organization have far more to do with its relative achievements than do technological or economic resources, organizational structure, innovation and timing...
    • Thomas Watson, Jr. (1962) as cited in: Heather Clark, John Chandler, Jim Barry (1994) Organisation and Identities: : Text and Readings in Organizational Behaviour. p. 355
  • Social organizations are flagrantly open systems in that the input of energies and the conversion of output into further energy input consists of transactions between the organization and its environment.


Galbraith's Star Model of organizational design
  • No organization chart is likely ever to be displayed in a major art museum. What matters is not the chart but the organization. A chart is nothing but an oversimplification which enables people to make sure that they talk about the same things in discussing organization. One never makes.
  • The purpose of an organization is to enable common men to do uncommon things.
    • Peter Drucker MANAGEMENT: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973) Chapter 36, pg. 455
  • All organisations have to make provision for continuing activities directed towards the achievement of given aims. Regularities in activities such as task allocation, supervision, and co-ordination are developed. Such regularities constitute the organisation’s structure, and the fact that these activities can be arranged in various ways means that organisations can have differing structures.
    • Pugh, D. and Hickson, D. (1973). The comparative study of organizations. In Salaman, G. and Thompson, K., editors, People and Organizations, Longmans, London. pp 50–66. Cited in: Andreas Schaad. (2003) A Framework for Organisational Control Principles. p. 24
  • There is no one best way to organize... Any way of organizing is not equally effective.
  • Organization design is conceived to be a decision process to bring about a coherence between the goals or purposes for which the organization exists, the patterns of division of labor and interunit coordination and the people who will do the work.
  • Organizations are goal-directed, boundary-maintaining, activity systems.
Given the five parts of the organization - operating core, strategic apex, middle line, technostructure, and support staff - we may now ask how they all function together. In fact, we cannot describe the one way they function together, for research suggests that the linkages are varied and complex...
- Mintzberg (1979)
  • Given the five parts of the organization - operating core, strategic apex, middle line, technostructure, and support staff - we may now ask how they all function together. In fact, we cannot describe the one way they function together, for research suggests that the linkages are varied and complex. The parts of the organization are joined together by different flows - of authority, of work material, of information, and of decision processes (themselves informational).
    • Henry Mintzberg (1979) The structuring of organizations: A synthesis of the research p. 35


  • Institutional theories of organization provide a rich, complex view of organizations. In these theories, organizations are influenced by normative pressures, sometimes arising from external sources such as the state, other times arising from within the organization itself. Under some conditions, these pressures lead the organization to be guided by legitimated elements, from standard operating procedures to professional certification and state requirement, which often have the effect of directing attention away from task performance... Institutional theories of organization have spread rapidly, a testimony to the power of the imaginative ideas developed in theoretical and empirical work.
    • Lynne G. Zucker (‎1987). "Institutional Theories of Organization," In: Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 13: 443-464
  • We create organizations to serve us, but somehow they also force us to serve them. Sometimes it feels as if our institutions have run out of control, like the machinery of Charlie Chaplin's film Modem Times. Why we should become slaves to our servants... A society of organizations is one in which organizations enter our lives as influential forces in a great many ways — in how we work, what we eat, how we get educated and cured of our illnesses, how we get entertained, and how our ideas are shaped. The ways in which we try to control our organization and our organization in return try to control us become major issues in the lives of all of us.
    • Henry Mintzberg (1989) Mintzberg on management: inside our strange world of organizations. p. 301. As cited in: R. van den Nieuwenhof (2003) 2 strategie: omgaan met de omgeving. p. 36


  • The things we fear most in organizations - fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances - need not be signs of an impending disorder that will destroy us. Instead, fluctuations are the primary source of creativity.
  • Organizations are systems of coordinated action among individuals and groups whose preferences, information, interests, or knowledge differ. Organization theories describe the delicate conversion of conflict into cooperation, the mobilization of resources, and the coordination of effort that facilitate the joint survival of an organization and its members.
  • We are organizational creatures. We are born not only into a society and culture but usually into a specific, complex organization: a family. Our marriages are organizations. We study in schools that are organizations; we earn a living in businesses that are organizations; at some time or another we will likely worship in an organization; and when we die there will be organizations to usher us out of this world.
    • Peck, M. Scott (1993). "Something is Seriously Wrong". A World Waiting to Be Born. pp. 5. 
  • We don't know what organization is. ...We do know that complex adaptive systems have to be nonlinear and capable of storing information. ...We know a little bit about what distinguishes an adaptive complex system from a nonadaptive system, such as turbulent fluid flow.
    • J. Doyne Farmer, The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (1995)
  • By organization Maturana refers to the relations between components that give a system its identity, that make it a member of a particular type. Thus, if the organization of a system changes, so does its identity. By structure Maturana means the actual components and relations between components that constitute a particular example of a type of system. The organization is realized through the structure, but it is the structure that can interact and change. So long as the structural changes maintain the organization, the system’s identity remains.
    • John Mingers, Self-Producing Systems: Implications and Applications of Autopoiesis. Contemporary Systems Thinking. New York: Plenum P, 1995

21st century[edit]


  • The Internet is the technological basis for the organizational form of the Information Age: the network."
    • Manuel Castells, The Internet Galaxy - Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society (2001). p. 1; Opening, The Network is the Message.
  • Cultures are not made from free-floating values. They are rooted in institutions and organizations.
    • Manuel Castells, The Internet Galaxy - Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society (2001). p. 48
  • Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization's makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like... I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.
  • In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.
    • Margaret Wheatley, as quoted in 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself (2004) by Steve Chandler, p. 123
  • Any social organization does well enough if it isn't rigid. The framework doesn't matter as long as there is enough looseness to permit that one man in a multitude to display his genius. Most so-called social scientists seem to think that organization is everything. It is almost nothing — except when it is a straitjacket. It is the incidence of heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros.
  • From a legal point of view, an organisation is a legal person. It is legitimised, under the laws of the land, by a legally recognised and binding constitution specifying purpose, procedures to be followed, hierarchical offices to be taken up, authority to be granted, and membership criteria and categories.
  • We use the word "organization" to mean both the state of being organized and the groups that do the organizing... We use one word for both because, at a certain scale, we haven't been able to get organization without organizations; the former seems to imply the latter.
    • Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, 2008. p. 29


  • Organizations are (1) social entities that (2) are goal-directed, (3) are designed as deliberately structured and coordinated activity systems, and (4) are linked to the external environment.
    • Richard L. Daft‎, Jonathan Murphy, ‎Hugh Willmott (2010) Organization Theory and Design, p. 10; Cited in: Jan A. P. Hoogervorst (2009), Enterprise Governance and Enterprise Engineering, p. 80.
  • The essence of an organisation is not the bricks, or the people, but the means in which these are combined.
    • Paul Griseri (2013). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Management. p. 20

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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