Organisational theory and sport management

Milena Parent, Daniel O'Brien

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterEducationpeer-review


• Basic tenets of organisation theory
• Organisational characteristics
• Contextual dimensions
• Organisational processes

At the end of this chapter you should be able to:
• Understand the basic tenets of organisation theory;
• Explain the various factors that influence the structure of a sport organisation;
• Describe five fundamental organisational design configurations;
• Relate how contextual factors can impact upon the structural and design features of sport organisations;
• Recognise the relationship between change management and ongoing competitive advantage in sport organisations;
• Grasp some basic approaches to understanding the notion of organisational leadership.

Organisation theory – organisation theory is the scientific study of organisational structure, processes, and design. Topics of interest include leadership, change, culture, conflict, performance, technology, and the impact of contextual factors.
Organisational change – organisational change is an alteration or modification in the organisation’s technology, structure and systems, people, and/or products and services (cf. McCann, 1991; Slack and Parent, 2006).
Organisational design – organisational design is the coming together of structural (e.g. formalisation, centralisation, complexity) and contextual (e.g. size, technology, environment) dimensions into a given configuration to garner efficiency and effectiveness (Daft, 2009; Slack and Parent, 2006).
Organisational structure – organisational structure pertains to how an organisation’s tasks ‘are broken down and allocated to employees or volunteers, the reporting relationship among these role holders, and the coordinating and controlling mechanisms used within the sport organisation’ (Slack and Parent, 2006, p. 6).
Sport organisation – a sport organisation is a social entity involved in the sport industry that is focused on attaining goals, and has a consciously structured activity system with identifiable boundaries (Slack and Parent, 2006).

Why would you want to know about organisation theory? Well, look around you. We live in a world that is full of organisations of different sizes, types, and goals. Sport organisations, of course, are no exception. You will likely work in some type of organisation(s) now or at some point in your life, notwithstanding the fact that the university or college you are attending is also a type of organisation. But why should a sport manager be concerned with organisation theory? The analogy of a car is useful here. Many of us know how to drive a car, but relatively few of us know what to do when it breaks down. So what do we do? We lift the hood and look at the motor. Again, relatively few of us know what we’re looking at. We might take a stab at a quick fix, but are never really sure if we’ve sorted out the problem. Sometimes we might even ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. More often than not, this leads to a worsening of the situation. Eventually, the car breaks down altogether and is rendered useless and in need of costly servicing or, worse, total destruction. Now think of a sport organisation. What is the manager’s role when something goes wrong? Of course, s/he is expected to know how to solve organisational problems as and when they arise. But how many sport managers know exactly what to do when they ‘lift the hood’ on their organisation? A basic understanding of organisation theory arms the sport manager with this knowledge, and helps us recognise the symptoms of potential organisational problems before they actually arise, thereby keeping our sport organisations ‘on the road’ and running efficiently.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging sport business: An introduction
EditorsDavid Hassan
Place of Publication Milton
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781351967273
ISBN (Print)9781138291386
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018


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