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Courses: SYSC 610OT: Organizational Theory & Dynamics


Robert R. Sinclair, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology; (503) 725-3965

Wayne Wakeland, Ph.D.
Systems Science Ph.D. Program; (503) 725-4975


This course will teach students to apply Organizational Theory and System Dynamics principles and concepts to the study of organizations. Students will learn principles and concepts that focus on the organization as the unit of analysis. Students will be expected to apply these concepts to a real world organization in a consulting context. Students also will develop/enhance expertise in specific areas of organizational theory and system dynamics relevant their professional or research interests.

The course is designed to be of interest to students in Psychology, esp. I/O Psychology, Business, Systems Science, Engineering Management, and other programs; and to professionals in Organizational Development and Human Resources.

Organizational Theory: Core Concepts

  • Organizational structure
  • Organization-environment relationships
  • Organizational strategy and effectiveness
  • Organizational culture
  • Organizational learning, growth, and change

Systems Dynamics: Core Concepts

  • Structure and behavior of dynamic systems
  • Systems archetypes; System diagramming tools
  • Feedback
  • Barriers to Learning; Modeling human behavior
  • S-shaped growth; Tipping points; Path dependents

Timeframe & Registration:

Although you must register Spring Term, most of the course will take place during the summer:

  • April/May: Two 2-hour planning meetings
  • Early June: possible meeting with client organizations(s)
  • Last half of June: Six 3-hour lectures on OT and SD topics
  • July/August: Work on projects, papers, models; monthly progress meetings with instructors
  • Early September: Formal project presentations to clients; papers/reports due

Evaluation Process:

  • Exam covering key course concepts (early July)
  • Team project for a specific organization. Individual grades based on feedback from the team, the organization, and the instructors (due mid-September)
  • Paper/Report: integrative literature review or development of a system dynamics model of an organizational phenomenon (due mid-September)


  • Primary Text: Banner & Gagne, Designing Effective Organizations, 1995 (avaialble at PSU Bookstore)
  • Secondary Text: Sterman, Business Dyanmics, 2000 (copies in Reserve Library)
  • Selected readings from scholarly business/management journals (e.g., Academy of Management Review) and applied journals (e.g., Harvard Business Review) (access TBD)


Contact Wayne Wakeland:; (503) 725-4975