Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice
has rightly been described as a "classic" in the history of organizational theory. First published in 1965 it was a major contribution to the development of contingency theory and our understanding of the relationship between technology and organizations.
The book stood in marked contrast to the traditions of scientific management. Combining detailed empirical research and a pioneering analytical framework it suggested that technology and production systems played a crucial role in shaping effective organizational structures. In doing so Joan Woodward offered lasting insights into issues of levels of hierarchy and spans of management control - issues that today might be discussed in terms of "delayering" and "process re-engineering".
Woodward's work was a springboard for much subsequent research and many of her specific observations have been widely debated and challenged. Yet, as Sandra Dawson and Dorothy Wedderburn write in their Introduction, "the main thesis of the book is well known...however, this is a book where to know its main thesis is no substitute for reading the book itself. Joan Woodward's ideas remain one of the cornerstones of our knowledge of our organizations."