In business, there are numerous organizational structures that exist. They can be classified as “traditional” or “flat”, or even “mechanistic” or “organic”. It is commonly debated which structure reigns supreme, but what it comes down to is what structure best suits the needs of the company. The structure and design of an organization is the basic framework that dictates things such as roles and responsibilities or the reporting structure and compensation. In deciding which design is most beneficial to the company, many factors need to be taken into account. Some examples of these factors are the changing culture, future opportunities, and what the financial and business goals of the company are. The structure should clearly define the reporting relationships of employees and the basic hierarchy of positions. The design of the company in essence gives power and responsibility to employees and solidifies it with a formal chart. It is important to keep in mind that the organizational structure is not only seen on paper
but can also be seen in the everyday relationships of employees.
The strictest and most formal type of organizational structure in business would be considered a “mechanistic” design. The mechanistic organizational structure has fine divisions of labor which results in a high output of specialized jobs. They have a very strict chain of command and rely on high level management to make the brunt of the decisions. A textbook example of this type of design would be the United States Military. There is a clearly defined hierarchy with a tight chain of command. The decisions are typically made from the top down and the contrary would need special and individual approval. The compensation and power of each position is also clearly defined by its place in the order. The mechanistic structure was established in the early twentieth century when mass production was the trend and the industrial age was in full swing. Leaders looked for something that promoted efficiency as well as productivity through bureaucracy and found that this structure fit the mold. Unlike some structures that flow horizontal or even vertical, the mechanistic model is strictly vertically oriented. This means that the chain of command goes literally from the top down and typically in a triangular shape. The employees are grouped into different specialties with each grouping having a clearly defined leader. As you climb the structural tree, the control starts to tighten to a point where managers are managing other managers rather than employees. The top of the structure is the individual with the most power and control which is most usually the “CEO” or Chief Executive Officer. As with anything, this type of design does come with its negative attributes. The biggest downfall to this structure would be the ability to quickly and efficiently adapt to changes in the market and outside variables. With such a strict chain of command, employees are not free to problem solve through creative means and are held up waiting for approval of leadership. This could cost the company productivity which directly equates to profits. Another issue with this model is the difficulty in collaborating with other departments in achieving a common goal. This structure groups employees into specialties which creates a sense of isolation among departments. For creativity to thrive and efficiency to flourish, people need to leverage the abilities of the entire company and all departments and not just rely on their single goal oriented coworkers. Even with opponents across the industry, this model still continues to hold strong to this day. In a stable industry that requires extreme efficiency as well the ability to decentralize, the mechanistic design structure will earn its keep.
In the 1950’s, a man by the name of Tom Burns as well as G.M. Stalker created the term “Organic Organization”. Rather than a design that is rigid and well defined, organic organizations are flexible and can adapt to changing cultural environments. Unlike the mechanistic approach, ideas and decisions tend to flow horizontally rather than vertically. Employees are given the ability to make on the spot decisions that eliminate the need to wait for higher approval. What we see with this design type is the authority is given to the group of employees rather than the manager overseeing the group. What this does is greatly increase the quality of work and products as the employees are encouraged to problem solve and display creativity on their own rather than with approval. Two examples of organic designs are the team and network organizational structure. The team structure utilizes the idea of a team that is made up of different specializations. When a unique problem does arise, most likely one or more of the team members will be capable of resolving the issue. Unlike the mechanistic approach, this organic team structure is led by a single manager overseeing multiple teams. This fosters the idea of adaptability and problem solving as the employees collaborate and leverage self-worth to achieve goals. The network approach does not use teams but rather employs outside vendors to accomplish major work functions. The major advantage or an organic design is the ability for companies to adapt and change with the fluctuating markets. When employees are not held up by bureaucracy, they tend to accomplish the task with minimal oversight and with extreme efficiency. This design also enhances communication among the work force as they use each other to problem solve and collaborate with other departments. This type of structure best suits those companies that deal with extremely volatile markets and unpredictable environments.
Worker productivity can greatly be affected if the organization is employing the incorrect
type of design structure. There is many variables that go into the creating of structure such as the type of work environment, the amount of control needed and what type of production method you are relying on. Something to keep in mind is that if you want to change performance within an organization you must change the design. If the design is not changed to meet the demands of a changing market, then the performance will be severely impacted.
It is essential that the company utilizes the type of design structure that best fits its goals. The structure needs to change as the goals and environments change as well. If you shift ideas and want to create change, you must first look at the foundation or the very basic level and that is the structure of the company.