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21512 Understanding Organisations: Theory and Practice

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2019 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Business: Management
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.
Anti-requisite(s): 21221 Organisational Structure and Change


This subject considers what is theory and what is theorising in the specific context of organisations and organisation theory. It covers both mainstream classical business theorising and some alternatives. This examination should lead to an understanding that theory and organisational reality interact, influencing and shaping each other. It then follows that the practising manager is informed by theory when defining issues, sense making and choosing practical action.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
1. recognise several different ways of conceptualising and describing organisations and explain how these different theoretical approaches reflect only specific aspects of organisational reality
2. discuss how different theorising not only reflects aspects of organisational reality but is also significant in further shaping that reality, so that theory is not separate from the 'reality' it purports to describe
3. critique organisational theory and practice, given the above understandings
4. reflect on what persistence and change in the context of organising means for the practice of managing.

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

This subject develops critical and complex thinking about managing in the context of organising. It enables students to make informed decisions and choices about management practice. It develops important understanding of and skills for management processes. Students develop an awareness of key concepts of persistence and change in the context of organising.

This subject contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

  • Business knowledge and concepts
  • Critical thinking, creativity and analytical skills

This subject also contributes specifically to develop the following Program Learning Objectives:

  • 1.1: Critically analyse relevant concepts to understand practice in business and related professions in a global workplace
  • 2.1: Locate and critically evaluate relevant data and literature to address business problems through a research approach

Teaching and learning strategies

Lectures and tutorials weekly. Tutorials to focus on skills in reading and understanding academic theory, discussions and debates, DVDs (when suitable), small group discussions practising exam-style questions. All students will be provided with the opportunity for initial feedback on their performance in the subject during the first six weeks of the semester, for example, online quizzes, tutorial exercises, draft assignments and other assessment methods. Further feedback will be provided in relation to submitted assessment tasks.

Lectures are designed as interactive experiences: students are invited to get acquainted with the theories that will be discussed (using recommended text books and suggested readings posted on UTS online) before coming to class; key to this preparation activity is the updating of their learning diary. The focus of the lecture is to discuss the connection and contrasts between different theories and to reflect on their implications for practice. During the lecture the audience is constantly engaged by the lecturer with open questions and requests for reflective feedback.

Tutorials are fully interactive experiences based on different types of exercises:

  • ‘Lived experience’ of organizational dynamics through simulations, debates, and games
  • Discussion and analysis of case studies
  • ‘Theory presentation competitions’ in which students’ teams compete by delivering 2 minute presentations in which they imagine to explain key organisational theories to a non-specialist audience (and can obtain bonus mark if their performance is highly satisfactory)

Content (topics)

  • Classic business approach to organisation — description and evaluation
  • Classic theorising about why organisations take particular forms
  • Limitations of, and problems arising from, the classic business approach — learning to critique through different lenses as applied to 'organisation'
  • Organisation as a social construction, and the part theories play in this construction
  • Managing and organising — what understanding of theory means for a manager
  • Persistence and change in the context of organising


Assessment task 1: Essay (Individual)


This addresses subject learning objective(s):

1 and 2

Weight: 30%

2500 words (+/- 10%) references excluded

Assessment task 2: Report & Presentation (Group)


This addresses subject learning objective(s):

2, 3 and 4

Weight: 30%

3500 words max
(excluding executive summary, appendices and reference list)

Presentation delivery:
10 minutes per team

All team members must have an active role in the presentation, either by delivering part of it or by answering questions from the tutor and the audience. Teams must also prepare a presentation deck (in PowerPoint or Prezi) to be used as an audiovisual support for the delivery of the presentation.


We will be looking for evidence of:

  1. Originality, critical analysis and reccomendations: this includes identification and critical analysis of 3-4 selected theories; an analysis of the past and present practices of the organization based on those theories; sound recommendations well supported by reference to theory and to the particular characteristics of the organisation (10%)
  2. Report structure: e.g. clear and appropriate report structure, appropriate headings, report presentation (e.g. use of visuals and formatting) (5%)
  3. Clear written expression and referencing: appropriate to purpose and audience (i.e. an academically persuasive report written for a managerial audience). You should ensure that the report has accurate grammar, a professional tone that it is authoritative and concise (i.e. don’t use 1000 words where 100 will do), and appropriate paragraphing (5%)
  4. Report delivery (10%)

Assessment task 3: Final Exam (Individual)


This addresses subject learning objective(s):

1 and 3

Weight: 40%

Minimum requirements

Students must achieve at least 50% of the subject’s total marks.

Recommended texts

RECOMMENDED TEXT BOOK - Hatch, Mary Joe (2018) Organization Theory. 4th Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Additional readings (indicated in UTS online) will be made available in electronic form or through the UTS library website. Some of these readings are mandatory, and need to be read before some classes. Each week you will be reminded of your mandatory and/or additional readings for the following week through UTS online.