Organisational Design Process In Shaping Structures

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An organisation involves a group of people distinguished by a mutual collective interest, with bonds existing between the individual components and the effectiveness of their arrangement in a logical, consistent whole. It controls its performance and has a boundary separating it from its environment. It concerns almost every aspect of human life. Grey (2005, p.4) puts it that, one thing that penetrates just about everything in the real world is organisations and their management, human beings are born into a hospital, live in a family, go to school, go to work, and deal with a lot of organisations throughout their lives until they depart from this world.

Wikipedia assesses organisational design as the process of reforming organisational structure and roles. It involves the orderly arrangement of processes which fall in line with the business and organisational strategies to achieve its present and future goals. The process of organisational design involves the linkage of structure and strategy, which is executed by managers.

Management is an integral part of organisational life; it entails the acts of getting people together to accomplish desired goals. It comprises of planning, organisHYPERLINK ""ing and controlling a group of people for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. This induces interrelationships between managers and subordinates which involve power, influence, interest, conflict and the interaction of political structures in making and administering decisions for the organisation. Grey (2005, p.2) even argues that the study of organisations involve all forms of collective activity including politics.

The main subject matter involves bringing a particular focus to the topic. It will be pertinent to discuss how the concept of Bureaucracy in contrast to Adhocracy relates to the organisation as a whole; i will then evaluate the view with regards to some criteria and the relationship between organisations and the environment, presiding over the concepts of Contingency theory and Strategic Choice.


"A Critique of their relationship with the organisation as a whole"

The achievement of preplanned goals is the primary motive of any organisation; certain decisions have to be made concerning structure and design, thereby determining how efficiently the desired goals will be achieved. To ensure this, questions about structure and design are raised such as responsibility, size, and levels of management. A type of organisational structure that provides answers to these questions is Bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy has been summarized by Wikipedia as the association of organisHYPERLINK ""ational structure and a set of regulations employed to manage activity in an organisation. The relationship between the Bureaucratic model and the Organisation is its function as an organizational structure and a guide to creating organisational design. Its modern day concept was developed by a German Sociologist, Max Weber, who developed his concept of structuring on the adoption of hierarchical arrangements, set of rules, stated authority, and tasks clearly spelt out in an impersonal climate. This approach is likened to work in large organisations being divided into sub units, allotted to specialized workers, sharing the responsibilities and centralizing the authority to a minute number of administrators. The hierarchical structure takes the shape of a pyramid, with the managers at the top passing down rules, giving instructions to their subordinates. The chain of command tends to be lengthy; the use of codified and impersonal rules replaces the need for supervision. This predicts the end of production, as any action that does not lead to the production of the initial designated organisational ends will be displaced.

On the Contrary, Adhocracy has been summarized by the as an organisational style characterized by an adaptive, creative and integrative behaviour which is flexible, non permanent and can respond faster to a changing environment. It does not impose formal rules; it has no standardized procedures for dealing with daily affairs, and has more of an informal setting. Adhocratic organizations have a flat hierarchical structure; such organizations usually have a temporary life span, and exist to deal with immediate situations, particularly in changing environments. Examples of such organisations are Computer Development and IT organisations. Adhocracy is designed to be adaptable in dealing with ever changing demands; these systems are common at work in high risk organisations, newly developing industries, discovering their bearings. However if the new industries continue to develop, they are likely to become bureaucratic in nature because of increase in size; also the adhocratic structure is limited in its ability to cope with the requirements of a larger business enterprise.

Sycamnias, E. argued in his article that it is almost impossible not to be faced with the option of considering a bureaucratic structure. This is due to the large size of modern nations and the necessity for an efficient organization that does not give room for personal and homogenous relationship settings to get in the way of attaining goals. This is a typical feature of large organizations with large numbers of workers that are designed to complete numerous and complicated tasks. Weber put it that the main benefits of bureaucracy are embedded in the creation of stability in an organization over time displacing the organization characterized with preferential treatments and discrimination. The Bureaucratic structure has been able to regulate discipline at work by making policies with regards to areas, where managers have jurisdiction in making decisions and stating what is required of the subordinates, this ensures functionality, thereby saving time, money and other resources. The success and prevalence of bureaucracies against other systems, elicits from the ability to succeed at achieving goals, the control is maintained and social values remain constant, rarely changing drastically even with the dynamism of social environments.

Adhocracy, unlike bureaucracy has no apparent subordinate relationships, there are uncertainties over responsibilities and authority, work cannot be broken down, there is no division of labour, no specialization, because the organization lacks a standardized regulated system of work. Conflict is a natural part of adhocracy.

Sadly though, bureaucracy has emerged as an epithet in the minds of many because of its rigid characteristics. It is perceived as being detrimental to individual freedom and choice. It has been criticized for generating blind obedience and excessive compliance to the instructions of power holders and its harsh treatment to the public in general. Its structure has been censured for its inhuman nature which is seldom accessible and can become inefficient.

Robert k Mertons, in his analysis of The Dysfunctions of Bureaucracy argues that bureaucratic organizations have become overemphasized, wholly neglecting the internal strains of the structure, he stated that the community at large emphasizes the imperfections of bureaucracy. He argued for the tendency of the rules to become more important than the ends they were designed to serve, leading to goal displacement and loss of organizational effectiveness. Goal displacement has an effect of workers applying official procedures in inappropriate situations, responding to an informal situation as if it were a routine. Consequences arise from these because of the imposed ideology on individuals that a rule exists for every situation, these rules are misinterpreted, because workers try to place structure and apply policies where they apparently don't belong.

In Contrast to this, the value of adhocracy is in its ability to be adaptive and innovative while simultaneously permitting the alliance of various specialists with less stringent rules which displaces hindrances and creates room for individual creativeness. The flat managerial structure of adhocracy allows more interaction and collaboration which makes it a possible alternative to bureaucracy.

Both systems have their benefits and pitfalls, but this does not make any one of them inefficient. Each of them has different approaches to dealing with situations. A number of theories exist for the best organisational structure for a business, in fact some business enterprises have developed a joint approach to combining the flexibility of adhocracy and the strength of bureaucracy, but the truth remains that there is no one best structure for any organisation. The suitable structure for any business depends on a range of factors, such as size, goals and objectives. Larger organizations would select a bureaucratic structure because of the need to attain set objectives, but organizations that exist to complete certain tasks as quickly as possible would opt for adhocracy as this gives them the liberty to discover their markets and methods. Both systems are only structural designs, how they are executed depends solely on the interpretations and motives of the managers.


The Question of whether managers' interests and power are the dominant factors shaping structural change depend on quite a number of variables and factors, which are based on the structure and design. There are different types of organisations that exist for different purposes, with different goals and policies that revolve around their existence. Generally in most organizations, managers are considered to be at the peak of the hierarchical structure, the final decision makers and the highest rank of authority, but these vary among organisations

Speaking in terms of ownership of business, type, size and goal of an organization, managers are the highest decision makers in organisations where they are not answerable to any stake or share holders, their interests and power are the principal factors shaping structural change. This is predominant in adhocratic, small scale organizations, and businesses that are owned by sole proprietors, which have a flat hierarchical structure, and a smaller span of control. There could be a manger that is the owner of the organization and could hire one or two other managers, they select and implement the forms of structure they consider appropriate so that the organization is placed in a suitable position to achieve its goals. However their interests and power are the main factors guiding this.

The case is different in larger, bureaucratic organizations, businesses owned by partners, and joint stock companies, where the hierarchical structure assumes the shape of a pyramid, with different types, ranks and levels of managers, the interest and power of managers may not be the dominant factors shaping structural change, because the managers are not at the peak of authority, even though they have powers and control over their subordinates, they are still answerable to share or stake holders who are the owners and whose interests and power are the main factors determining organizational structure, design and any changes.

The concepts of subjectivity, objectivity, power and politics come in to play, as they depict the rationale behind managers' interests which may be based on objectivity, without being influenced by personal emotions and prejudices, they work towards achieving the goals of the organisation, and they try to be independent of individual perceptions which involve the use of power and politics. This argument is supported by Thompson's and McHugh's (2009, p.122)(a) view that successful managers are those who learn to use power, not just to get their own way, but to get things done. Tom Peters, (cited in (a)) puts it that 'anyone who loves accomplishing things must learn to love politics' (Independent on Sunday, 15th May I994).

On the contrary, some managers are egotistic in their motives; their actions are directed towards pursuing their own interests regardless of the well being of the workers. Subjectivity may be a feature of managers of adhocratic organisations, because of the smaller span of control, managers are the owners and the organizational design put in place could just be to satisfy their personal interests. Stratification which involves the hierarchical arrangement of individuals into divisions of power may not be a prominent feature of adhocratic organisations, but Karl Marx's view of the capitalist mode of production consisting of two main economic parts the base (which comprehends the relations of production, property relations and employer-employee work conditions in which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life) and the superstructure, (which encompasses the ruling classes that own the means of production which essentially includes the working class itself as they only have labour power to offer in order to survive) explains this argument.

The case of subjectivity is however different in the bureaucratic organisations because the managers might not be the owners, and may be answerable to stake or share holders. If the managers' interests are subjective, they do this at the expense of the goals and objectives of the organisation, there are case scenarios where senior managers make decisions or implement the decisions of stake or share holders to suit their (managers) selfish interests at the expense of the success of the organisation and the benefits of their subordinates.

The final part of this argument is concerned with adapting organisational design to the environment, which involves the need for the organisation to transact with the environment. The contingency theory is a significant approach to this and has been summarized by (Reed, M. Lecture, 14th October 2010) as the view of the organisation as an open system, exposed to the threats of its environment. It has to adapt its structure and fit the contingencies that are functioning in its environment. Managers have to adapt the structure to whatever the environment demands, in order to survive, and produce positive results over a longer term, the management has to ensure that the environment contingencies, which the organisation faces are compatible with the design of its internal structure. The environmental contingencies influence managers, choices and decisions with regards to structure and design. Due to the fact that environments are changing, unstable, unpredictable and complex, this requires a shift from the machine bureaucracy and as long as this continues from time to time, managers have to keep redesigning to ensure the compatibility.

One of the basic determinants of the success of an organisation is the ability to preplan the management of uncertainty which plays a significant role as a feature of strategic choice. Choice, as summarized by a chapter on Strategic Choice published by the Oxford University Press is a logical element and is central to the strategy formulation process, without it; there is no need for adopting a strategy. However there is always a limit to the range of possible choices most especially in large organisations because the choices are made at a higher level or in another geographical area. Small scale organisations are constrained by their limited resources; large businesses have a problem changing and are confined in their previous systems. Politicians may make strategic choices in the public sector, which leaves the manager with the role of devising the best possible way of executing the strategies. In cases where managers are free to make strategic choices, possibilities may depend on chance and opportunity, rather than their interests and power.

In considering future strategies, unexpected events play a major role in determining results, the process of choice involves identifying options, evaluating it against preference criteria, selecting the best option and taking action. There may be difficulty in identifying all possible options and unforeseen events can create new opportunities, wreck expected opportunities or even change the balance of benefits between opportunities. Good strategic choices that involve critical analysis, evaluation and analytical skill have to be challenging enough to keep ahead of competitors but also, achievable. Strategic choices are better kept open because of the nature of unforeseen circumstances.

Strategic choice is as much a political as a logical process, each context has its own pattern of politics, which is important in determining both how and what strategic decisions are made. It involves the questions of who stands to gain or lose from a particular strategic choice. What alliances exist and how will they are affected? Who may be seen to have originated and supported particular arguments?

Strategic choice requires approval by the board, no strategy will be effective unless it also has the active support of a far wider range of people who both understand the proposals and are prepared to work to make the necessary changes happen. One way of achieving this support is to involve these people in the process of making the decision.

The research on organization-environment relations, have investigated the structural differentiation within and between organisations. The Contingency theory encompasses internal relations, while strategic choice is concerned with external relations, with the knowledge of this i don't think one of the approaches should be chosen at the expense of the other, because none of them is totally perfect. The contingency theory has been criticized for its environmental determinism, neglecting the role of policy formulation and intervention and seeing it only in terms of adaption to the environment as argued by (a) (p.63). I think the two approaches can be combined because organisations require careful management to balance internal needs with regards to changes in the environment and choices have to be made and carefully planned. However as (Morgan 1997, p.44) puts it, there is no one best way of organising, the appropriate form depends on the kind of task or environment, the goals of the organisation and the interpretation of the managers.


Different types of structural designs exist as guidelines for organisations; it is up to the managers or stake holders to pick a structure that ensures the achievement of set goals efficiently as well as to link structure and strategy through the process of organisational design. This, however is a political process because strategic decisions will require approval by the authority, there will be clash of interests when decisions are critically evaluated, which will bring about arguments amongst managers and subordinates, decisions made has to have active support.

Although the ideal case is for managers and subordinates to be involved in the process of decision making, it may not be the actual case. Even in the ideal case, managers' interests are usually given preference over those of their subordinates, though some room is created for the views and interests of the subordinates. To conclude finally, i would say that in whatever case scenario, managers' interests are the dominant factors shaping structural change, because the power and authority they possess gives them an edge over their subordinates. The argument by Whittington ( 1988:532-3) cited in (a) about the fact that property rights, structures of class, provide a limited circle of actors with command over resources to make strategic choices, supports this conclusion.