James E. Rice

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rink, David

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Marketing


Sears; Roebuck and Company; Organization; Management


The relationship of the organization structure to the strategy chosen to cope with the environment has been of interest to organizational development researchers since the 1940's. The purpose of this type of research was to understand the relationships among the firm's organization, its strategy, and its environment. If a company could better understand its evolution and use its knowledge for future decisions, its probability of success would be dramatically improved. The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationships among a firm's strategy, organization life cycle, orientation, and environment in order to develop an explanatory model. Environment was examined in terms of the types of influences that impinge on the firm. The interrelationships among market life cycle, organization life cycle, and product life cycle were then analyzed. The effect that orientation has on a firm's organization was also investigated. Strategy alternatives available to a firm were enumerated, and the relationship of strategy to organization life cycle was scrutinized. Finally, a case study methodology, adopted to evaluate the feasibility of the explanatory model, was applied to the history of Sears, Roebuck, and Company. Each component of the explanatory model, i.e., environment, organization life cycle, orientation, and strategy was researched extensively in the secondary literature— both published and unpublished sources. Examples were used liberally throughout the analysis in order to clarify and highlight various points. Several conclusions resulted from this research. First, the definitions of market opportunities and needs commonly used by writers in this area are too narrow to explain the influences that affect strategy. This research showed that a broader definition is needed. Strategy is influenced by different components of the environment. Also, a firm is influenced more by some components than by others. Sensitivity to all of these environmental influences is essential to developing strategy. Second, the research proved that strategy is not the major causal factor for a structure change. Rather, the organization life cycle is more of a determining factor to organizational change than outside forces. Third, the research demonstrated that orientation affects what information a firm seeks from the environment, how the firm processes the information, and what action the firm takes as a result of the information. Finally, it was found that orientation determines how the firm views its environment. When its perceived environment changes, the firm first adjusts its functional strategy. If the new functional strategy is inadequate to handle the environmental change, the firm then alters its business strategy. If the new business strategy is inadequate, the firm then modifies its corporate strategy. However, the firm's organization life cycle changes if and only if the environmental change creates a crisis that the current organization is unable to solve.


Includes bibliographical references.||Page 52 missing.


xiii, 229 pages




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