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The vital issue of producing energy while protecting the environment is the focal point for this engaging study in organizational behavior. Richly detailed case studies of six electric utilities—The Tennessee Valley Authority, The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Ontario Hydro, The Southern Company, The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Boston Edison—three public and three private—reveal strikingly different ways of dealing with regulations to protect the environment and offer a framework for understanding the decision-making process in large firms.
The authors describe the ways in which external constraints and internal structure combined to shape the formulation of each utility’s environmental policy. In-depth interviews with managers show that organizational behavior was not solely motivated by profit or legal considerations. Career patterns, company history, conflicts among departments, and psychological blind spots were also factors that influenced action. In sum, corporations did not make decisions: people did. Moving beyond utilities, the authors speculate about corporate response to social expectations in general. They apply their model to answer such questions as: Why do institutions react differently to similar pressures? How can more creative responses to changing social expectations be encouraged? The framework that emerges for the future study of organizations is broad in its applications and highly flexible.