Organizations as penetrated hierarchies: environmental pressures and control in professional organizations

Ivar Bleiklie, Jurgen Enders, Benedetto Lepori

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Organizational control and environmental influences on organizational behavior are central themes in organization studies, yet little effort has been made to bring them together. In this paper we seek to contribute to filling this gap by investigating and conceptualizing environmental influences on organizational control. The paper examines patterns of organizational control and their environmental couplings through three parallel case studies of public universities in three European countries. We provide a systematic characterization of the space of configurations of control in professional knowledge-intensive organizations along the two axes of centralization of power and formalization of social relationships. We show that environmental characteristics do matter for the contestation and selection of control models. Finally, we unpack and conceptualize the synergetic influence of three environmental characteristics (institutional pressures, resource environment, and external social relationships) as providing sources of legitimacy and power for specific control regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-896
Number of pages24
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number7
Early online date17 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • external relationships
  • organizational control
  • professional organizations
  • resource dependency


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