Evaluation of theories on organizational structures

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The structure of an organization consists of tasks and reporting relationships of completely formal systems which controls and motivates the employees to coordinate them to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

The structure of an organization is referred to that the way an organization allocates candidates and jobs to perform its objectives and goals and achieve them successfully. If the work group is small then the communication in the organization will be more face-to-face and also frequent and the structure is not necessarily to be a formal one, when compared to a larger firm there is a delegation of tasks need to be done in order to make decisions. In this way the procedures are formed through which responsibilities and tasks are assigned for the functions in an organization and these decisions are responsible for the structure of the organization.

"Generally in any organization whether it is a small or large size the employee's responsibilities are same and are defined typically about their work which has to be done and report the work to the managers. All these definitions are given to the positions in the organization but not to any specific candidate in the firm. These relationships among the positions can be explained and figured graphically by a chart of organization (see Figures 1a and 1b). The best organizational structure for any organization depends on many factors including the work it does; its size in terms of employees, revenue, and the geographic dispersion of its facilities; and the range of its businesses (the degree to which it is diversified across markets).

Traditional organizational structure:

The traditional organizational structure, this section provides additional detail regarding how this affected the practice of management. The structure of every organization is unique in some respects, but all organizational structures develop or are consciously designed to enable the organization to accomplish its work. Typically, the structure of an organization evolves as the organization grows and changes over time.

Researchers generally identify four basic decisions that managers have to make as they develop an organizational structure, although they may not be explicitly aware of these decisions. First, the organization's work must be divided into specific jobs. This is referred to as the division of labour. Second, unless the organization is very small, the jobs must be grouped in some way, which is called departmentalization. Third, the number of people and jobs that are to be grouped together must be decided. This is related to the number of people that are to be managed by one person, or the span of control-the number of employees reporting to a single manager. Fourth, the way decision-making authority is to be distributed must be determined.

In making each of these design decisions, a range of choices are possible. At one end of the spectrum, jobs are highly specialized with employees performing a narrow range of activities, while at the other end of the spectrum employees perform a variety of tasks. In

Figure 1b Organizational Structure

Organizational Structure

traditional bureaucratic structures, there is a tendency to increase task specialization as the organization grows larger. In grouping jobs into departments, the manager must decide the basis on which to group them. The most common basis, at least until the last few decades, was by function. For example, all accounting jobs in the organization can be grouped into an accounting department, all engineers can be grouped into an engineering department, and so on. The size of the groupings also can range from small to large depending on the number of people the managers supervise. The degree to which authority is distributed throughout the organization can vary as well, but traditionally structured organizations typically vest final decision-making authority by those highest in the vertically structured hierarchy. Even as pressures to include employees in decision-making increased during the 1950s and 1960s, final decisions usually were made by top management. The traditional model of organizational structure is thus characterized by high job specialization, functional departments, narrow spans of control, and centralized authority. Such a structure has been referred to as traditional, classical, bureaucratic, formal, mechanistic, or command and control. A structure formed by choices at the opposite end of the spectrum for each design decision is called unstructured, informal, or organic.

The traditional model of organizational structure is easily represented in a graphical form by an organizational chart. It is a hierarchical or pyramidal structure with a president or other executive at the top, a small number of vice presidents or senior managers under the president, and several layers of management below this, with the majority of employees at the bottom of the pyramid. The number of management layers depends largely on the size of the organization. The jobs in the traditional organizational structure usually are grouped by function into departments such as accounting, sales, human resources, and so. Figures 1a and 1b illustrate such an organization grouped by functional areas of operations, marketing and finance.


Some organizations find that none of the afore-mentioned structures meet their needs. One approach that attempts to overcome the inadequacies is the matrix structure, which is the combination of two or more different structures. Functional departmentalization commonly is combined with product groups on a project basis. For example, a product group wants to develop a new addition to its line; for this project, it obtains personnel from functional departments such as research, engineering, production, and marketing. These personnel then work under the manager of the product group for the duration of the project, which can vary greatly. These personnel are responsible to two managers (as shown in Figure 3).

One advantage of a matrix structure is that it facilitates the use of highly specialized staff and equipment. Rather than duplicating functions as would be done in a simple product department structure, resources are shared as needed. In some cases, highly specialized staff may divide their time among more than one project. In addition, maintaining functional departments promotes functional expertise, while at the same time working in project groups with experts from other functions fosters cross-fertilization of ideas.

The disadvantages of a matrix organization arise from the dual reporting structure. The organization's top management must take particular care to establish proper procedures for the development of projects and to keep communication channels clear so that potential conflicts do not arise and hinder organizational functioning. In theory at least, top management is responsible for arbitrating such conflicts, but in practice power struggles between the functional and product manager can prevent successful implementation of matrix structural arrangements. Besides the product/function matrix, other bases can be related in a matrix. Large multinational corporations that use a matrix structure most commonly combine product groups with geographic units. Product managers have global responsibility for the development, manufacturing, and distribution of their own product or service line, while managers of geographic regions have responsibility for the success of the business in their regions.

Figure 3 Matrix Structure


As corporations become very large they often restructure as a means of revitalizing the organization. Growth of a business often is accompanied by a growth in bureaucracy, as positions are created to facilitate developing needs or opportunities. Continued changes in the organization or in the external business environment may make this bureaucracy a hindrance rather than a help, not simply because of the size or complexity of the organization but also because of a sluggish bureaucratic way of thinking. One approach to encourage new ways of thinking and acting is to reorganize parts of the company into largely autonomous groups,

Figure 4 SBU Structure

SBU Structure

called strategic business units (SBUs). Such units generally are set up like separate companies, with full profit and loss responsibility invested in the top management of the unit-often the president of the unit and/or a senior vice president of the larger corporation. This manager is responsible to the top management of the corporation. This arrangement can be seen as taking any of the aforementioned departmentalization schemes one step further. The SBUs might be based on product lines, geographic markets, or other differentiating factors. Figure 4 depicts SBUs organized by geographic area.



Except for the matrix organization, all the structures described above focus on the vertical organization; that is, who reports to whom, who has responsibility and authority for what parts of the organization, and so on. Such vertical integration is sometimes necessary, but may be a hindrance in rapidly changing environments. A detailed organizational chart of a large corporation structured on the traditional model would show many layers of managers; decision making flows vertically up and down the layers, but mostly downward. In general terms, this is an issue of interdependence.

In any organization, the different people and functions do not operate completely independently. To a greater or lesser degree, all parts of the organization need each other. Important developments in organizational design in the last few decades of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first century have been attempts to understand the nature of interdependence and improve the functioning of organizations in respect to this factor. One approach is to flatten the organization, to develop the horizontal connections and de-emphasize vertical reporting relationships. At times, this involves simply eliminating layers of middle management. For example, some Japanese companies-even very large manufacturing firms-have only four levels of management: top management, plant management, department management, and section management. Some U.S. companies also have drastically reduced the number of managers as part of a downsizing strategy; not just to reduce salary expense, but also to streamline the organization in order to improve communication and decision making.

In a virtual sense, technology is another means of flattening the organization. The use of computer networks and software designed to facilitate group work within an organization can speed communications and decision making. Even more effective is the use of intranets to make company information readily accessible throughout the organization. The rapid rise of such technology has made virtual organizations and boundarlyless organizations possible, where managers, technicians, suppliers, distributors, and customers connect digitally rather than physically.


Industry consolidation-creating huge global corporations through joint ventures, mergers, alliances, and other kinds of interorganizational cooperative efforts-has become increasingly important in the twenty-first century. Among organizations of all sizes, concepts such as agile manufacturing, just-in-time inventory management, and ambidextrous organizations are impacting managers' thinking about their organizational structure. Indeed, few leaders were likely to blindly implement the traditional hierarchical structure common in the first half of the century. The first half of the twentieth century was dominated by the one-size-fits-all traditional structure. The early twenty-first century has been dominated by the thinking that changing organizational structures, while still a monumental managerial challenge, can be a necessary condition for competitive success."