Examining Organic and Mechanistic Structures: Do We Know as Much as We Thought?

Stacey R. Kessler, Ashley E. Nixon, Walter R. Nord

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Burns and Stalker's theory of organic/mechanistic structures (1961, The Management of Innovation. London: Tavistock) has been widely used. However, review of the empirical literature revealed inconsistencies in how the concepts have been operationalized. These inconsistencies may interfere with the ability to consolidate knowledge. This paper reviews the various ways in which researchers have operationalized the concepts, and summarizes the empirical findings derived from these operationalizations. In doing so, it highlights gaps and opportunities for future empirical and methodological work, suggesting the need to further our theoretical conceptualization of the concepts and to draw attention to Burns and Stalker's () largely neglected corollary of the employee experience. As such, this review provides a road map for future exploration of the wide-ranging implications associated with organic and mechanistic structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-555
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017


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