Skip to Content

What are the factors that influence an organization?

Organizations do not operate in a vacuum. There are many internal and external factors that influence how an organization operates, its structure, and its ability to achieve its objectives. Understanding these factors is important for leaders and managers to make informed decisions that will allow their organization to thrive.

Internal Factors

Internal factors are elements within the organization that impact how it functions. Some key internal factors include:

  • Leadership – An organization’s leadership shapes its culture and priorities. Effective leaders empower employees, communicate vision, and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Organizational structure – An organization’s structure impacts communication, efficiency, and accountability. Structures like hierarchical, matrix, and flat reflect different management approaches.
  • Policies – Internal policies and procedures affect employee behavior, ethics, and day-to-day operations. Clear and concise policies guide decisions.
  • Organizational culture – Shared values, beliefs, and behaviors characterize an organization’s culture. Culture influences everything from dress code to customer service.
  • Technology – Information systems, software, production technology and other tools impact how work gets done in an organization.
  • Staff skills and knowledge – Employees’ competencies, education, and motivation determine what they can achieve. Investing in talent development is crucial.
  • Financial resources – An organization’s financial resources affect what is feasible. Managing budgets and financing dictates options.

External Factors

External factors originate outside of an organization and influence its performance. Key external factors include:

  • Economic conditions – The economy impacts spending, investment, and hiring. Factors like employment rates, inflation, and growth shape business decisions.
  • Competition – Rival companies compete for market share and talent. Organizations must analyze competitors and differentiate themselves.
  • Government regulations – Regulations at the federal, state, and local level impose requirements that affect operations and costs.
  • Consumer behavior – Understanding customer needs, perspectives, and buying patterns guides marketing tactics and product development.
  • Public perceptions – An organization’s reputation influences its ability to attract talent and customers. Public relations shapes perceptions.
  • Global trends – Events, innovations, and cultural shifts around the world create opportunities and threats that organizations must address.
  • Technological innovations – Emerging technologies disrupt industries and change how work gets done. Organizations must adapt to new tech tools.
  • Social issues – Public concerns like environmental protection and diversity influence organizational priorities and processes.

How Internal and External Factors Influence Organizations

Internal and external factors often influence each other and work together to affect an organization. Some examples include:

  • Government safety regulations spur manufacturing companies to change internal production processes.
  • A slack job market with high unemployment motivates companies to be more selective in hiring.
  • Public concern about the environment leads organizations across industries to implement sustainability initiatives.
  • New mobile technology gives companies opportunities to improve internal communication and customer service.

The most successful organizations continuously scan and monitor their internal and external environments to detect relevant changes and respond effectively. Though managers cannot control external events, they can control how they react to these forces.

Internal Factors


An organization’s leadership has a profound impact on its performance. Effective leaders exhibit certain traits and leadership styles that motivate employees to work towards shared goals. Characteristics of effective leaders include:

  • Vision – Communicating a clear strategic vision.
  • Integrity – Building trust by acting ethically and leading by example.
  • Adaptability – Adapting plans and tactics to changing conditions.
  • Empowerment – Delegating responsibility and enabling employee initiative.
  • Positivity – Projecting optimism, self-confidence, and enthusiasm.
  • Communication – Sharing information and listening to feedback from all levels.

Common leadership styles include:

  • Autocratic – Leader makes unilateral decisions and assigns tasks.
  • Participative – Leader encourages team input, though retains decision authority.
  • Laissez-faire – Leader delegates extensively and provides little guidance.
  • Transformational – Leader serves as an inspirational role model for change.

Organizations benefit from thoughtfully matching leadership styles to contexts and desired outcomes.

Organizational Structure

An organization’s structure establishes the framework for how it operates. Organizational structures include:

  • Functional – Grouping by business function or expertise.
  • Divisional – Grouping by product, service, geography, or consumer.
  • Matrix – Dual reporting lines along functions and divisions.
  • Flat – Minimal hierarchy with wide spans of control.

Key considerations when setting organizational structure are:

  • Alignment to strategy and goals
  • Efficiency of operations
  • Coordination across units or offices
  • Speed of decision making
  • Employee empowerment

As conditions change, organizations may restructure to support emerging objectives.


Well-designed policies guide employee behavior and organizational practices. Effective policies have the following attributes:

  • Align with overarching strategy
  • Reflect organizational values
  • Conform to legal and regulatory requirements
  • Provide clear instructions and rationale
  • Establish accountability and consequences
  • Offer necessary flexibility for practical application

Common organizational policies include those addressing ethics, safety, technology use, purchasing, expenses, and work standards. Policies must be monitored and enforced to sustain expected behaviors.

Organizational Culture

An organization’s culture consists of the shared assumptions, values, and norms that shape behavior within in it. Key elements of organizational culture include:

  • Values – Guiding principles, ideals, and ethics.
  • Heroes – Exemplary role models exhibiting desired behaviors.
  • Rituals – Ceremonies, traditions, and routines conveying culture.
  • Cultural network – Informal communication channels and relationships.

Functions influenced by organizational culture include:

  • Communication patterns
  • Attitudes towards risk and change
  • Orientation towards teamwork or individualism
  • Approaches to conflict management
  • Work pace and norms
  • Regard for policies and discipline
  • Customer service ethic

Organizations seeking to instill cultural change often benefit from analyzing their current culture and clarifying desired traits.


Technology enables organizations to streamline operations, share information, and deliver products and services. Some examples of how technology influences organizations include:

  • Production technology expands manufacturing capabilities and efficiency.
  • Information systems house operational data employees use to perform tasks.
  • Telecommunication tools connect geographically dispersed offices and workers.
  • Collaborative software allows seamless teamwork on documents and projects.
  • Sales force automation systems track customer interactions and sales activity.
  • Business intelligence platforms aggregate and analyze performance data.

Technology decisions significantly impact an organization’s capabilities and cost structure. Keeping systems current and aligned with objectives allows leveraging emerging technical capabilities.

Staff Skills and Knowledge

An organization relies on the collective skills, knowledge, and capabilities of its workforce to execute its strategy and perform essential functions. Some practices for cultivating an organization’s human capital include:

  • Strategic hiring to fill competency gaps.
  • Job design to engage employees’ skills.
  • Learning and development programs to build expertise.
  • Mentorship and knowledge sharing to transfer know-how.
  • Performance management to motivate and retain top talent.
  • Competitive compensation to attract and reward performance.

Developing talented, engaged employees with relevant capabilities brings immense strategic value.

Financial Resources

An organization’s financial resources influence its ability to pursue different activities and strategies. Key aspects include:

  • Capital – Funds available from investors, owners, and financing for investment.
  • Operating budget – Revenue and expenses forecasted and allocated across business units and functions.
  • Cash flow – Timing of incoming and outgoing payments.
  • Credit – Ability to access loans and lines of credit.

With sufficient financial resources, organizations can weather periodic losses, seize growth opportunities, and invest in strategic initiatives. Financial constraints restrict options.

External Factors

Economic Conditions

The state of the economy significantly shapes the business environment. Important economic factors include:

  • GDP growth – Overall productivity gains expand opportunities.
  • Unemployment rates – Ample job openings make hiring easier.
  • Inflation – Rising prices strain budgets and purchasing power.
  • Interest rates – Low rates stimulate borrowing and investment.
  • Consumer confidence – Optimism indicates household spending potential.

Economic expansions offer chances for business growth, while downturns necessitate cost control and efficiency measures.


Virtually all organizations face some level of direct or indirect competition that influences their operations. Key competitive factors include:

  • Industry rivals competing for the same customers and market share.
  • Products and services that can substitute for one another.
  • Potential new entrants seeking to gain a foothold.
  • Suppliers exercising bargaining power over inputs.
  • Customers with buying power to demand concessions.

To gain advantage, organizations must monitor competitors, differentiate themselves, and craft competitive strategies.

Government Regulations

Government regulations at the federal, state, and local levels affect how organizations conduct business. Common regulatory areas include:

  • Employment and labor laws
  • Tax policies
  • Industry safety and quality standards
  • Environmental protection rules
  • Consumer protection regulations
  • Trade policies on imports, exports, and outsourcing

Organizations must ensure compliance with applicable regulations, even as the regulatory landscape evolves over time.

Consumer Behavior

Understanding the motivations, preferences, and decisions of consumers guides strategic moves. Key considerations in analyzing consumers include:

  • Demographics – Factors like age, income, education, and household size.
  • Psychographics – Attitudes, beliefs, values, lifestyles.
  • Purchasing patterns – When, where, how, and why consumers buy.
  • Influence of hype and trends
  • Brand loyalty and switching behavior
  • Price sensitivity

Organizations combine insights from market research with observations of purchase activity to attract, retain, and grow customer relationships.

Public Perceptions

An organization’s reputation and public image impact its standing and influence. Positive public perceptions can provide advantages:

  • Enhanced ability to reach and persuade consumers
  • Increased interest from job applicants
  • Goodwill and leeway from regulatory bodies

Negative perceptions impose challenges:

  • Consumer avoidance and brand damage
  • Recruiting difficulties
  • Investor wariness

Public relations, CSR initiatives, press coverage, and word-of-mouth shape how organizations are perceived.

Global Trends and Events

Developments around the world present cross-border opportunities and threats to monitor. Examples include:

  • Technology innovations emerging from global tech hubs.
  • Political regime changes opening or closing access to markets.
  • Trending social causes gaining traction worldwide.
  • Unexpected crises disrupting supply chains.
  • International trade pacts enabling global expansion.

Staying abreast of global happenings allows spotting meaningful shifts that warrant a response.

Technological Innovations

Emerging technologies transform how organizations function. Ongoing tech advances provide new capabilities in areas like:

  • Artificial intelligence and automation
  • Internet of Things and big data analytics
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Blockchain platforms and applications
  • Additive manufacturing and advanced robotics
  • Renewable energy and sustainability tech

Adopting breakthrough technologies can propel an organization ahead. However, organizations need processes to scan tech trends, evaluate options, and assimilate innovations.

Social Issues

Evolving social attitudes shape the public’s expectations of businesses. Topics gaining attention include:

  • Environmental sustainability
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Corporate governance and transparency
  • Data security and privacy
  • Work conditions and labor practices
  • Community citizenship and philanthropy

Leading organizations integrate emerging social priorities into their products, messaging, and business practices.

Key Takeaways

In summary, major internal factors affecting organizations include leadership, organizational structure, policies, culture, technology, staff capabilities, and financial resources. External factors come from outside an organization and include economic conditions, competition, government regulations, consumer behavior, public perceptions, technological changes, and social trends. The interplay between external forces and internal capabilities determines an organization’s overall direction and performance.

Organizations must continually examine internal and external environments to pinpoint factors most likely to influence their objectives. This allows leaders to leverage opportunities and mitigate potential threats through informed planning and agile decision-making. Anticipating and managing change, rather than just reacting, positions organizations to reach their potential.