Theory of Mobility and Behavior in Organizations: An Inquiry Into the Consequences of Some Relationships Between Individual Performance and Organizational Success.

Jacobs, D. Toward a Theory of Mobility and Behavior in Organizations: An Inquiry Into the Consequences of Some Relationships Between Individual Performance and Organizational Success. American Journal of Sociology, 87, 684-707. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from .

David Jacobs in “Toward a Theory of Mobility and Behavior in Organizations: An Inquiry Into the Consequences of Some Relationships Between Individual Performance and Organizational Success” (1981) begins to model how individuals can positively or negatively impact their larger organizations. He brought three examples into perspective, in regards to determinantes of a relationship between an organization and an individual. The first example showed how a professor of an academic institution received the pulitzer prize. This individual not only brought spotlight to himself, but to their organization. This person and their academic institution were then able to affect different resources to their favor compared to another research whose subject area and research are just as important but did not receive an award. In this second case, an individual effects change on a smaller level and brings little advantage or disadvantage to the institution. Jacobs  third example shows how an individual who does exemplary work at his or her job may not stand out or make their institution stand out, however when the individual does poorly, it can dramatically influence the company or institution negatively. A good example of this can be seen with an airline pilot. If the pilot has an error in landing or in flight, it could hurt the companies stock and customer base compared to if he perfectly lands the aircraft, there would be little reward for the pilot or the company. Jacobs (1981), also acknowledges that not all employees at an institution work or are reliant upon themselves and that often times other individuals or departments are responsible for collective work. In these cases, four relationships between an individual and the organization were looked at…


“(1) whether interdependence between positions is pooled or sequential,

(2) whether individual success in various organizational positions is common or infrequent

(3) whether positions are located in organizations which cannot receive much credit for an exemplary performance, and

(4) whether positions are located within subunits whose performance has limited effects on the performance of the total organization” (Jacobs, pg. 691, 1981).


Much of the research in the article relied upon others organizational structures and theories. Jacobs relied upon established examples of careers and the general public knowledge about the roles of particular individuals within society. He used his Theory of Mobility to show how an individual’s movements are structured based off of the organization of an institution. Jacobs was able to depict how some types of jobs provide/require a different mobility structure based off of his 3 general mobility classifications. What Jacobs discovered was that industries can begin to predict and outline the success of employees and institutions based off of their mobility structure.

The organization of the article was coherent, however it could have used more titles to give the reader the ability to go back and look at specific examples. It seemed to run quite long with examples.

The contribution to the the overall organizational field is minor, as a majority of the information deals with broad generalizations. However, it is beneficial to those inexperienced in different organizational  structures and expectations. It gets the mind to consider the roles and growth of their institutional field.

The strength of this article was his ability to classify individuals performance structures and how one can succeed or fail within a given organizational environment. Jacobs constantly uses his three organizations performance models through the entirety of the article and examples to solidify his research.

However, I felt the theory lacked when trying to depict mobility examples of how an individual can break away from their specific groups. For example, what happens when an individual begins to take on the vast majority of the work on their team? Who gets the credit? The team or the individual? The article also lacked in specific, tested examples, and relied on a basic understandings of particular careers and their functions.

Jacobs does well in the introduction and concluding summary in conveying his theory and its application to the reader.

This article sparked a new avenue that I would like to look at and pursue within creating and organizational structure for the College of Medicine Phoenix. Prior to this article, I was unable to articulate why it is important to have a mobility structure in place or how to begin to look at the movement of individuals within the institution. Because of this piece I will be able to build a stronger argument for developing a strong growth structure for the Academic Affairs Department. I can use this information to help create a positive mobility structure within the department to help encourage employee growth and retention as it provided a way to measure the effects of different types of individual performances at an institution.

I would like to further the study by trying to practically apply this theory in developing and organizational growth structure at the College of Medicine – Phoenix campus. Hopefully by using a theory based model, I will be able to more clearly see the holes in the theory and depict whether the theory actually works. By attempting to implement the actual study I will hopefully build on what the study/article was missing. Physical application.


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