Does Organisational design matter in a social care organisation?


Organisational design does matter in a social care organisation. The design of an organisation is how you structure an organisation to have an impact on people. The effectiveness of a person's work performance is part of themselves but also the organisation. The organisational design includes rules, assigns individual roles, and controls the behaviour and performance of its members.

Robbins a behaviourist psychologist identified six steps in which organisations are designed.

Work specialisation; is the degree to which activities are subdivided into different jobs. It provides clear tasks and responsibilities for employees. In a social care setting clients have diverse needs. Social care practitioners will encounter many job activities they need to do, in order to meet the needs of each client. They need to respond flexibly to situations that may arise within the care setting. For example; a client may have a query about their 'Individual Personal Planning' file which the social care practitioner is able to answer but will be discouraged to answer the question if their job is in a bureaucratic specialised form. There needs to be a broadening of job activities in a social care environment which is emphasised within the delegation theory.

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Departmentalization; refers to the way jobs that are grouped together in an organisation. A popular way of grouping activities together is by functions performed. According to Friedman (1991) social carer's need to have knowledge of the functions of the organisation in which they work. A lack of understanding of the organisation will weakened the social carer's ability to serve clients.

The organisation design can also be departmentalised on the basis of geography. For example the Health Service Executive (HSE) has Southern, Western, Midwestern and Eastern regions providing service to clients in a social care setting. Social care services can be spread over large geographic areas and assist clients with similar needs based on their location. 'Kerry Parents and Friends' organisation have residential houses for a person with disabilities throughout the county of Kerry e.g. Rathmore, Killarney, and Listowel This form of departmentalization is very valuable to clients in a social care organisation.

In the chain of Command instructions come from the top of the organisation down and the span of control refers to the number of levels and managers within an organisation. Hierarchy levels can have negative influence on employee's status within an organisation. (Trevino & Nelson 2004)

Centralisation; is where decision making in an organisation is concentrated to a single point. The manager externally controls the employees. In a large social care organisation centralisation can cause serious delays when a social carer is seeking a respond from top management on a referral of a client whereas in decentralisation organisations prompt action can be taken to solve problems.

In Formalisation the organisational design is fixed rules and regulations about everything that gets done (Robbins 1990). Highly formalised organisations have clear job descriptions, defined work procedures on what work needs to be done. In a social care setting, low formalisation is needed to enable employees to adapt to the various changing needs of each client. For example; in dealing with a challenging outburst of behaviour by an autistic child, a certain therapeutic framework such as TCI (Therapeutic Crisis Intervention) may be used within the organisation. Following precise rules hinders employee's creativity. A social care practitioner may know of another therapeutic intervention that would prevent the child's challenging outburst of behaviour, but is unable to use the alternative intervention due to the rigid rules.

All organisations especially a social care organisation need to control behaviour of its employees. The level of control within an organisation can be referred to 'External Control Design' or Internal Control Design'

Weber (1947) identified characteristics of an External Organisation design which he called bureaucracy. The bureaucracy approach in relation to McGregor's Theory X method implies unless an organisation externally restricts employees behaviour, the objectives of the organisation will not be met

Bureaucracy ensures impersonality where employees are treated in an equal fair manner. The rules within the organisation are implemented for everyone without favouritism. Employees are selected on a basis of expertises and competence. An employee in a bureaucratic organization main focus of work may be to earn an income. They have the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills over time therefore may get a promotion and rise up the hierarchy. It encourages long term commitment in the organisation. However, having sole activities in an organisation can result in low job satisfaction and poor quality of service provided to clients. Porter and Lawler model of work motivation links the expectancy theory with equity considerations in explaining job performance.

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Due to change in recent decades many employers are gearing towards internal control adapted by McGregor theory Y technique. The internal control design involves alterations of the bureaucratic approach and is relevant in social care organisations. Other main types of organizational design include the matrix structure, the simple structure, and the team structure, the virtual and boundaryless organisation.

The matrix is an organisational design with dual line management and reporting structure. It involves two forms of departmentalisation which include functional and product. The advantage of the matrix design is the ability of the organisation to coordinate multiply interdependent activities which is needed in a social care setting whereas a bureaucratic approach would increase formalisation. In the matrix approach the contact between different specialties creates more flexibility and better communication which is also essential in a social care setting. The bureaucratic defined rules approach and predictability is absent from the matrix approach. This is a disadvantage and would cause confusion among staff in a social care organisation.

(Influences on organisations)

Influence of organisational design is based on four factors. The strategy is 'the vehicle for achieving organisational goals' Johnson & Scholes (2002). The technology is the 'production process used by organisation' (Thompson 1967). The organisational size affects organisational design because an organisation with over 2000 members tends to have more of a bureaucratic approach. An organisation with less than 500 is likely to have less of a bureaucratic method and aims towards internal control design. The environment also influences the organisational structure because external factors outside the organisation may affect the organisation performance. For instance, the social care environment needs to change to the diverse needs of clients. One example would be the changes of the government regulations on the childcare amendment act 2001.

(Perception and culture of Organisations)

Max Wertheimer (1923) argued that people's decision is based on their perception. Managers and employees make decisions in organisations but how individuals make decisions is influenced by their perception and also by the culture of the organisation. People process mental concepts of different roles and conform to them (Zimbardo et al, 1973). Failure in acknowledging how individuals perceive a job in negative terms will increase social carer's turnover and absenteeism. (FM Loewenberg)

The organisational design is highly influenced by the organisational culture. Organisation culture influences employee's behaviour. The traditional founders of an organisation have an important impact on the culture and design of the organisation. The founders 'personality' becomes rooted in the culture of the organisation. The organisational culture evolves in two sages where managers hire new employees who think and feel the same way they do. The managers judge new employees on their ability to fit in with the established norms of the organisation. The employers own behaviour acts as a role model, this socialises new employees values, beliefs and assumptions. Gradually individuals conform to the strong culture of the organisation. Related concepts by Robert Mortow of the self fulfilling prophesy shows mangers expectation leads to certain pattern of behaviours by employees.

Many social care organisations design rely on team work as a key element of the service they provide. Social care organisations work together. Leadership is a key success in many organisations. However, leaders need to understand the culture within the organisation to enable them to guide their own behaviour and the behaviour of its employees. (Hellreigel et al 2001). . Unwritten norms can replace formal rules and regulations (Robbins 1998). Having knowledge of organisational culture will also assist the social care practitioners to be aware of the impact the organisation culture has on service users (DeBrin 2002).

Conformity within groups can cause other workers to change their attitudes and beliefs in order to match those of the group; therefore it is important organisations have a bureaucracy form and are supervised regularly to ensure each staff member is conforming adequately to rules and policies. HIQA (Health Information Quality Authority) are positive bureaucractic organisations who carry out independent inspections on social care organisations. A breakdown of the organisational design can have horrifying effects especially in a social care organisation which is highlighted by the closure of Leas Cross nursing home due to insufficient standards of quality and care to the service users.

Overall, it is clear the organisational design does matter in a social care organisation. The key elements in designing an organisation have many advantages as well as disadvantages. Robbins identified reasons on why bureaucracy still continues to exist as a key element in organisation, some of the reasons include success, maintains control and static social values which are all important elements in a social care setting. However, there needs to be a balance between the key elements and bureaucracy in the design of the social care organisation. The influences of strategy, size, technology, and the environment have an impact on the design of an organisation. An employee's perception and personality characteristics also influence the organisation. A culture of openness and trustworthiness is essential in a social care setting. Organisations tend to select employees with similar characteristics to the organisation therefore it is important organisations are supervised on a regular basis by bureaucratic organisations such as HIQA to ensure quality service is been provided to clients.

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