1. This assignment asks you to answer the following question in essay format:
‘Like many multinational organisations in the 1980s-1990s, BP adopted a new organisational design in response to changing environmental conditions and new organisational priorities and strategies’.
How and why might BP’s post-industrial organisational design and its relationship with the broader environment be contributing factors in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Discuss using relevant organisational theories.
Some students may find it easier to think about the following two questions:
a) How and why might the recent difficulties experienced by BP be explained by its post-industrial organisational design?
b) Why might the recent difficulties experienced by BP be explained by its broader environmental relationships?
The first question asks you to think about ‘internal’ organisational issues how these may have contributed to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. For example, you might want to consider BP’s organisational design and consider if there were certain weaknesses in this design which contributed to the problem. If you took such an approach to your essay you would need to demonstrate a conceptual and theoretical understanding of organisational design arguments.
Hatch and Cunliffe (2006) discuss organisational design on pages 296-308 and most organisational theory textbooks also have chapters or sections on organisational design and would be worth consulting. The required readings by Kolk and Levy, 2001; Siddall, Willey and Tavares, 1992; Stoneham, Grant and Cibin, 1996;
White, 2002 and Bergin, 2011 provide some useful insights into BP’s organisational design. The key, in answering this section of the question is to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts and arguments related to BP’s organisational design and develop an argument—with supporting evidence—on how this structural design may have contributed to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The second question is not asking you to examine how BP has ignored environmental standards or destroyed the natural environment. Rather this question asks you to consider how and why the various relationships between the organisation and its broader,
international environment might have contributed to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The issue of environmental relationships is taken up throughout the Hatch and Cunliffe (2006) textbook with chapter 3 being the major focal point for this discussion. Once again, most organisational theory textbooks have chapters or sections on organisations and environment and would be worth consulting additional readings. Remember you must apply appropriate organisational theories to develop your arguments.
For example, you might want to apply Environmental Contingency Theory, Institutional Theory or Stakeholder Theory to explain BP’s relationship with its environment or Enacted Environment to discuss BP’s perceptions of its environment in recent years which may have contributed to some problems for the organisation. These are only a few suggestions. It is up to you to choose how you want to develop your essay and your theoretically informed argument.