The Coupling Relationship between Internal Work Processes and Symbolic Displays within an Institutionalized Organization

Posted: 13 Jan 1998

See all articles by Mark W. Dirsmith

Mark W. Dirsmith

Pennsylvania State University

Parveen P. Gupta

Lehigh University - Department of Accounting

Timothy J. Fogarty

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Accountancy

Date Written: September 1997

Abstract

Two key properties of organizations have long been widely recognized and studied: the technical processes by which organizational work processes are carried out, and the symbolic display of formal structure as a strategy for gaining legitimacy with external constituents. For example, it has been proposed that these two properties are "decoupled" from one another to permit effective organizational functioning. It has also been proposed that they are "loosely coupled" with one another. Nevertheless, we still have relatively little understanding of how these two properties relate to one another. The study reported in this article draws upon three theoretical perspectives - the sociology of professions, institutional theory and loose coupling - and empirically examines the nature of the relationship between the technical processes by which organizational members are coordinated and controlled, and the manner in which an organization symbolically demonstrates its commitment to a rational course of action. To evaluate these research issues, we administered a test instrument to ninety-six audit teams in the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). Statistical results obtained using the Linear Structural Relations Model (LISREL) suggest that the symbolic display of formal structure is loosely coupled with the process by which audit team members are coordinated and controlled. It also appears that such symbolic displays complexity shape what audit team members come to accept as the GAO's reality.

JEL Classification: D23, M49

Suggested Citation

Dirsmith, Mark W. and Gupta, Parveen P. and Fogarty, Timothy J., The Coupling Relationship between Internal Work Processes and Symbolic Displays within an Institutionalized Organization (September 1997). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=52821

Mark W. Dirsmith

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States
814-865-3901 (Phone)
814-863-8393 (Fax)

Parveen P. Gupta

Lehigh University - Department of Accounting ( email )

621 Taylor Street
RBC #37
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States
610-758-3443 (Phone)
610-758-5992 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.lehigh.edu

Timothy J. Fogarty (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

Cleveland, OH 44106-7235
United States
216-368-3938 (Phone)
216-368-4776 (Fax)

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