Organization Science informs ®
Vol. 17, No. 5, September–October 2006, pp. 657–671 doi 10.1287/orsc.1060.0215
issn 1047-7039 eissn 1526-5455 06 1705 0657 © 2006 INFORMS
A Future for Organization Theory: Living in and
Living with Changing Organizations
James P. Walsh
Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1234, ******@umich.edu
Alan D. Meyer
Charles H. Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1208, ******@lcbmail.uoregon.edu
Claudia Bird Schoonhoven
Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, ******@uci.edu
e believe that the ﬁeld of organization theory is adrift. In sailing jargon, we are “in irons”—stalled and making
Wlittle headway toward understanding organizations and their place in our lives. We ﬁrst attempt to diagnose our
maladies and then, in this light, offer three broad research questions that just might reinvigorate our work: First, how can
we understand today’s changing organizations? Second, how can we live in these organizations? And third, how can we
best live with them? We close by calling attention to how our familiar approaches to building and testing theory might
hamper any attempt to revitalize our ﬁeld.
Key words: organization theory; twenty-ﬁrst century organizations; theory-building agenda
We are adrift. The work of organization theorists has good management practices” (p. 86). Strong words.
been called everything from solipsistic to dangerous, There is a bad mood rising.
and prominent scholars are concerned. Augier et al. A debate now rages about just how