Can someone recommend a good introduction to the topic of organizational behavior? My interest is in descriptive rather than prescriptive models -- I'm interested in what is known about predicting the behavior of organizations, rather than guidance on what they should do to achieve their goals. This kind of prediction strikes me as something of substantial practical use, especially to business; being able to work out the plausible range of future actions of city hall, the state legislature, Congress, regulatory agencies, competitors in the marketplace, large customers, and important suppliers would be a valuable capability in making one's own plans.


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Seeing like a state talks about this in terms of governments but is probably extrapolatable to other organizations.

You could check out Wikipedia on public choice theory and organizational theory .

For a more humorous approach, you could read The Peter Principle . You could also check out Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy .

The Gervais Principle is also very good along those lines.

"Very good" in the sense that it's entertaining or "seems" insightful, or in the sense that you have a ton of real-world experience with diverse organizations that it nicely summarizes?

(I was moderately well-acquainted with the sort of cynical view of organizations presented in The Gervais Principle, etc. when I started working at larger software companies and found that they were a lot more effective than it implied.)

It improved the organization and integration of things I already believed related to the links Costanza posted. I do not have real world experience making predictions using its guidelines.

Oh, oh! Taking a class in this right now. Sorry to pile on late, but James Wilson's Bureaucracy is a classic. Also worth reading is Selznick, "Leadership in Administration" which is a harder read, but awesome concepts.

I can give you a longer list if you want, and some readings off our syllabus.

Thinking about it, I'd also recommend Nick Szabo's blog (read the archive) and essays. If the whole thing looks too daunting, here is his summary (mostly links to his more important points).


The Prince by Machiavelli (1532).

I'd like to second drethelin's and Costanza'a recommendations.

Also, you may want to look at John Gall's General Systemantics.

The Ropes to Skip and the Ropes to Know is pretty well regarded. It isn't exactly what you're looking for in that it focuses on navigating organizational issues as an employee rather than charting the course of an organization. I expect the larger question is very hard to answer, otherwise stock picking would be easier.