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Organisational structure has being defined as the way in which management is organised, both vertically (by function, by operation or by matrix) and horizontally (layers of hierarchy) (Gerry et al., 2008). The traditional view of organisational structure describe the way in which organisation is configured into work groups and the reporting and authority relationship that connect individuals and groups together. Structure role is to create different identities for separate work groups and its influence is very vital on the effectiveness with which individuals and group communicate. Also, the aim of structure is to organise and distribute work among the member of an organisation so that their activities are best exploit to meet the organisation's goal and objectives (Nonaka Y Takeuchi, 1995; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990).
There are many types of organisational structures and many reasons why organisations have structures. Some organisations have structures in order to help them to organise what they do or a clear structure makes it easier to see which part of the business does what and there are many ways by which organisations can be structures namely:
The Form/Product Organisational Structure.
In this, people are group in the organisation by the type of material they are dealing with (e.g. in my place of work, [a Support Living Home], certain group of people deals with ordering of medication and other deals with activates for the people we support etc).
The User/Market Organisational Structure.
The TESCO structure is an example where customers were separated based on user/market segmentation.
The Hybrid Organisational Structure
Two separate organisation structures are combined into one. Most organisations are hybrids because of its simplicity.
The Matrix Organisational Structure
The matrix structure involves a repeating substructure within each department or unit under the one roof which are the same. In this structure, staff could have several bosses with several different projects.
The Geographic Organisational Structure
Parts are distributed in different places (e.g. airbus in Filton make some parts for airbus and other parts are made from different part of the world).
The Functional Organisational Structure
Arranging the business according to what each section
or department does. Each part has a functional purpose with regard to helping its internal or external customers.
From these structures, it is possible to indentify that organisation will either be:
Centralised which means that all of the important decisions will be made from the head-office. This will mean that there is little or no delegation power from the branch which can be de-motivating to people who work in such branch
Decentralised means delegating power from the head office to local branches or divisions. This includes delegation i.e. passing authority down the hierarchy thereby accepting less uniformity in how things are done. This will mean that some important decision are made by managers at the branch and not from head-office .what this will mean to the organisation is that they will be motivated because some delegation and empowerment can take place within the branch without having to consult the head office before delegating to his/her span of control.
Organisational learning is the process by which knowledge and values of an organisation are exchanged which will lead to improved solutions and the capacity to learn from action. It is about the effective processing, interpretation of, and response to, information both inside and outside the organisation. The information may either be quantitative or qualitative and generally explicit in public domain. The social perspective on organisational learning focuses on the way people make sense of their experiences at work. These experiences may be derive from explicit sources such as previous year budget figures, or they may be derived from tacit sources, such as the feel that skilled craftsperson has, or the intuition possessed by a skilled editor of a newspaper (Stein and Ridderstrale 2001). From this view, learning is something that can emerge from social interactions, normally in the natural work setting. In the case of explicit information it involves a joint process of making sense of data and the more tacit and embodied forms of learning involve situated practices, observation and emulation of skilled practitioners and socialization into a community of practice. Argyris and Schon (1978) in their argument stated that the most important thing is organisation's ability to engage in single-loop or double-loop learning. They concluded that most organisations are locked into plain single-loop learning. Single-loop learning happens when an organization learns to conduct tasks either by memorization by repetition or to manage itself in a particular or predictive way. The double-loop learning involves greater questioning of both the organisation's objectives and ways of achieving them in a continuous progressive way.
Peter Senge, (1990) defined Learning organization as an enterprise that makes continuous improvement a central theme of its management approach. Therefore it is always willing to listen to new ideas and make the necessary changes which are mostly radical. For the changes to be a success there is need to be an open style of management, excellent internal communication and a sense of common aim amongst managers and their subordinates.
According to Peter Senge, learning organisation is where people put aside their old ways of thinking, learn to be open with each other, understand how their organisation really works, form a plan or vision which everyone can agree on and work together to achieve the set vision.
Peter Senge, in his book 'The Fifth Discipline', acknowledged five characteristics of a learning organisation which are:
There exists a shared vision on which everyone agrees.
People get rid of their old ways of thinking and the standard routines they use for solving problems.
Members think of all organisation processes, activities, functions and interactions with the environment as part of a system of interrelationships.
People openly communicate with each other (across vertical and horizontal boundaries) without fear of criticism or punishment.
People sublimate their personal self-interest and fragmented work interests to collaborate to achieve the shared vision.
Before deciding on the best type of structure to use, there are many internal and external factors which organisations need to consider and these factors may have an impacts on organisational structure. Things such as size of the organisation, products/service and skills of the workforce influence the organizational structure. For example, Woodward (1960s) in her contingent theory found that companies that design their organisational structure to fit the type of production technology they make use of are likely to be successful.
Depending on the type of organisation, an organisational structure may have impacts upon the level of employee's participation, effectiveness of communication, leadership styles, internal issues and problems may be connected to the way the organisation is structured. This may result in having a significant influence on the ability of organisation to sustain high levels of individual performance and achievement. This suggests that organisational structures do have impacts on organisational learning and the learning organisation because before organisational learning and learning organisation can take place, there is need for the organisation to adopt oneness among the workforce this is because its enable people within the organisation to share their knowledge and experience without any fear of being summon to disciplinary panel or lose the job. Some organisational structures do not create oneness spirit among their workforce. The lack of good team spirit will discourage suggestion from workers and de-motivate them. For example, an organisation with a tall hierarchy may restrict freedom and responsibility of employees (subordinates) and therefore affecting the process of organisational learning because People lower down the chain have a greater understanding of the environment they work in and the people (customers and colleagues) that they interact with. This knowledge skills and experience may enable them to make more effective decisions than senior managers. If the freedom is being restricted, the process of organisational learning will be very hard to achieve since members of the organisation may feel not being supported or the organisational structural style has restricted their freedom.
Looking at my personal experience, the company I used to work for had a flat structure where there was better team spirit, greater communication between management and workers and less bureaucracy and easy decision making since we were empower to make some certain decision or follow procedure in the absence of managers. This structure does not in my view impacts on our organisational learning because we are all aware of what is expected from us and the aim or goal of the company which we aim to work towards. We attend training on regular bases in order to be up to date and be dynamic to the changes in law or in the environment in which we operate. Everyone being equipped with knowledge we need to carry out our job helped us to deliver a good services to our clients and on a regular bases we review what is working well and what is not working plus what we have tried which is not working and why the thing is not working. Here, colleagues bring in a lot of suggestion or kind of brainstorming on how things can be improved. Doing this, we were able to learn from the past experience and prepare ourselves for the future. When teams attain outstanding results it is because they are learning how to act together as a community which is very important in organisational learning, playing to each other's strengths and cooperating to overcome their weaknesses. Mistakes and differences are seen as learning opportunities. The joy of doing something with others which everyone cares about, and puts their best into it is a rich and rewarding experience.
The people involved learned how to make changes occur, learned to value the contributions of others in the organisation, learned about themselves i.e. team learning, learned how to share their knowledge and experience within the given group, learned new skills and behaviours, learned how to build trust and oneness and create shared visions, learned how to challenge assumptions and see things from many different points of view. It is the individual learning that takes place and it is this learning team that generate organisational learning. Also, since our organisational structure does not impact on our organisational learning, this creates learning organisational for our company and the structure do not have any negative impact on our organisational learning and the learning organisation.
Generally speaking, there are some factors that influence the type of organisational structure in different companies. These are things like organisation strategy, organisation size, and technology use by such organisation, internal power struggles and the nature of the company environment (Chandler, 1962). In other words, organisation structure is thought to be dependent on or inclined by some key variables which make it to be contingence upon external influence. These factors variously affect decision over centralisation and decentralisation, functionalisation and divisionalisation, the amount of specialisation and span of control.
The right suitable or appropriate type of structure needs to be adopted by organisation before they can be able to accommodate learning in the organisation or the organisational learning. If the structure is not suitable for the organisation, it will have negative impacts on the workforce and as a result, there will be lack of direction or oneness among the workforce, it may even de-motivate them. Most companies need to be dynamic in order to be able to response quickly to changes and to make use of best type of structure that will promote organisational learning and the learning organisation since most of the core stakeholders' involvement will be needed in order to have a successful running of the company.
Lastly, impact of organisational structure on organisational learning and the learning organisation will deeply depend upon the type of structure which such company use and this structure determine the style of management and leadership style in such company and how the workforce adapt and see such structural factors in their working business environment.