Organizational Analysis (Self-Paced)

Daniel A. McFarland, Stanford University

In this introductory, self-paced course, you will learn multiple theories of organizational behavior and apply them to actual cases of organizational change.

Best MBA Mooc in 2013 as per review in the Financial Times! "The best [MBA Mooc] was Organizational Analysis taught by Stanford's Dan McFarland" - Philip D. Broughton MBA

It is hard to imagine living in modern society without participating in or interacting with organizations. The ubiquity and variability of organizations means there is ample room for complexity and confusion in the organizational challenges we regularly face. Through this course, students will consider cases describing various organizational struggles: school systems and politicians attempting to implement education reforms; government administrators dealing with an international crisis; technology firms trying to create a company ethos that sustains worker commitment; and even two universities trying to gain international standing by performing a merger.

Each case is full of details and complexity. So how do we make sense of organizations and the challenges they face, let alone develop means of managing them in desired directions? While every detail can matter, some matter more than others. This is why we rely on organizational theories -- to focus our attention and draw out relevant features in a sensible way.

Through this self-paced course you will come to see that there is nothing more practical than a good theory. In every module, you’ll learn a different organizational theory, and it will become a lens through which you can interpret concrete organizational situations. Armed with a toolset of theories, you will then be able to systematically identify important features of an organization and the events transforming it – and use the theories to predict which actions will best redirect the organization in a desired direction.

Join your future classmates and course alumni on Facebook!


Module 1: Introduction
Module 2: Decisions by rational and rule-based procedures
Module 3: Decisions by dominant coalitions
Module 4: Decisions in organized anarchies
Module 5: Developing organizational learning and intelligence
Module 6: Developing an organizational culture
Module 7: Managing resource dependencies
Module 8: Network forms of organization
Module 9: Institutions and organizational legitimacy
Module 10: Summary

Recommended Background

None; all are welcome.

Suggested Readings

No readings are required to complete this course. However, thousands of prior students have found the course textbook to be especially useful and worth the purchase. The textbook is over 200 pages in length but written in an accessible style. An e-book version costs about $10 plus transaction fees, which will vary depending on your location (see course page for details). 

Here is the manual link:

Please note the textbook is large and will take a while to download, so please secure a good connection before commencing the download process. If you are mostly interested in single modules of the course, then you can also purchase single chapters after you register using the links listed on the syllabus. 

Additional readings will be made available in the course syllabus and through a text provider. For further information, please register and access the course page.

Course Format

This is a self-paced course that you can take at your leisure. There are no deadlines!

Each module includes a series of short lectures, followed by interactive assessments that refer to the module readings on an organizational theory and case. In addition, there will be a forum where students post questions, respond to others, and “like” questions they want answered. Within each module, I record and post on-line the discussion of highly rated forum questions (screen-side chat). A final exam reviews all the material in the course. 

You may take the quizzes and exams as many times as you like and we will keep the last score you achieve. We will grade all registered students every few months and send out Statements of Accomplishments at that time. If you don't finish in time, then complete the remaining requirements as soon as you can and the Statement of Accomplishment will arrive when we grade again.  


• How much work will I be expected to do in this class?
About 2 hours a week to watch the videos, complete the quizzes, and post online. 

• Will I get a “statement of accomplishment” after completing this class?
Yes. Students will receive a statement of accomplishment signed by the instructor. It will designate whether the students met the requirements that demonstrate literacy in organizational analysis.  We will grade students every few months (taking their final score on every quiz / exam repeatedly performed) and then send Statements out to those who have finished the requirements at that time. 

• Does Stanford award credentials or reports regarding my work in this course?
Stanford University does not award certificates or other credentials for student work in this course. The instructor will offer a statement of accomplishment.
  • 22 September 2014, 10 weeks
  • 31 March 2014, 10 weeks
  • 19 September 2013, 10 weeks
  • 24 September 2012, 10 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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