W. Richard Scott

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W. Richard Scott, 2013

William Richard (Dick) Scott (born Dec. 18, 1932) is an American sociologist, and Emeritus Professor at Stanford University, specialised in institutional theory and organisation science. He is known for his research on the relation between organizations and their institutional environments.


  • Documents and records can seldom be taken for what they purport to be. They are not neutral and objective accounts of organizational purposes and activities but reflect the biases and interests of those who compile and use them. To take at face value reports of such complex and sensitive matters as costs, productivity, or hiring priorities is naive.
    • W Richard Scott. "Some Problems in the Study of Organization Structure," Mid-American Review of Sociology, 2 (1977):3 as cited in: Arthur G. Bedeian (1980). Organizations: Theory and Analysis : Text and Cases. p. 42.
  • Contingency theory is guided by the general orienting hypothesis that organizations whose internal features best match the demands of their environments will achieve the best adaptation.
    • W. Richard Scott (1992). Organizations: rational, natural, and open systems. p. 89

''Institutions and Organizations., 1995


Scott, W. Richard (1995/2001). Institutions and Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Institutions consist of cognitive, normative and regulative structures and activities that provide stability and meaning to social behaviour. Institutions are transported by various carriers – cultures, structures, and routines – and they operate at multiple levels of jurisdiction.
    • p. 33
  • Institutions are social structures that have attained a high degree of resilience. [They] are composed of cultural-cognitive, normative, and regulative elements that, together with associated activities and resources, provide stability and meaning to social life. Institutions are transmitted by various types of carriers, including symbolic systems, relational systems, routines, and artifacts. Institutions operate at different levels of jurisdiction, from the world system to localized interpersonal relationships. Institutions by definition connote stability but are subject to change processes, both incremental and discontinuous.
    • p. 33 (2001:48)
  • Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch (1967), who coined the label “contingency theory,” argue that different environments place differing requirements on organizations: specifically, environments characterized by uncertainty and rapid rates of change in market conditions or technologies present different challenges—both constraints and opportunities—to organizations than do placid and stable environments
    • p. 89 (2001: 103)
  • Different subunits within an organization may confront different external demands. To cope with these various environments, organizations create specialized subunits with differing structural features. For example, some subunits may exhibit higher levels of formalization than others; some may be more centralized in decision making; some may be oriented to longer planning horizons. The more varied the types of environments confronted by an organization, the more differentiated its structure needs to be.
    • p. 89 (2001: 103)

Organizations and organizing, 2007


W. Richard Scott and Gerald F. Davis. Organizations and organizing: Rational, natural and open systems perspectives. Routledge, 2007; 2015.

  • Organizations play a leading role in our modern world. Their presence affects - some would insist that the proper term us infects - virtually every sector of contemporary social life. This book is about organizations – what they are and what they do, how they have changed, and how people have thought about them and studied them.
    • p. 1
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