Formal and informal framework of policies and rules, within which an organization arranges its lines of authority and communications, and allocates rights and duties. Organizational structure determines the manner and extent to which roles, power, and responsibilities are delegated, controlled, and coordinated, and how information flows between levels of management. This structure depends entirely on the organization's objectives and the strategy chosen to achieve them. In a centralized structure, the decision making power is concentrated in the top layer of the management and tight control is exercised over departments and divisions. In a decentralized structure, the decision making power is distributed and the departments and divisions have varying degrees of autonomy. An organization chart illustrates the organizational structure.
Organisation communication channel within structure:
This article focuses on communication in the organizational structure. In the development of an organizational structure, communication channels are an important consideration. The manager in a hierarchical system becomes a link in the communication chain. It is the hierarchical system that gives direction to and imposes restrictions upon the flow of communications. Management decisions and directions flow from higher to lower levels in the organization. Responses and reports from the lower level managers flow upward in the organization. Managers also spend time communicating with their peers. Therefore, we see from the outset that communications must function effectively in a lateral direction, as well as downward and upward.
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Committees influence the communication process within an organization. A well-run committee can serve as a supplementary link in the communication chain and provide a means for disseminating information. However, committees often fail to ensure that Managers A and B tell each other what they wish or need to know. Although they cannot give directions or issue procedures, staff members influence the communication process within an organization. The advice or recommendations of staff members are accepted by subordinate managers, because of the anticipated support by the staff member's superior. When a staff member is given functional decision prerogatives, he essentially assumes the same status as his superior with respect to such matters. T. C. Warner believes that "one's accomplishment is... in a very real sense dependent upon the quality of the communication with others." And John Connor says that "there is no more valuable asset in business life than the ability to express one's thoughts with clarity and precision."
The Communication Process
To set the stage for information and message flow through an organization, let's review the basic elements of the communication process. These elements include: someone to send the message (the encoder), some means for channeling it, someone to receive it (the decoder), and a feedback mechanism. A multiplicity of encoders, channels, decoders, and feedback mechanisms can be used. However, for the information in a message to be processed clearly, quickly, and with a minimum amount of degradation, management must establish clear, formal communication channels.
Let's assume the message to be transmitted originates with the manager, or that he is serving as the agent for passing along a message from another source. Regardless of the source, the message passes through his (the sender's) filter before it reaches the intended recipient. The sender injects his attitudes and perceptions into the message; determines who should receive it; and the channels through which it should flow, i.e., upward, down-ward, laterally, or a combination of these. The attitudes and perceptions of the recipient, of course, influence the message translation, as well as the feedback he provides. Peter Drucker, noted exponent of good management practices, says:
"The manager has a specific tool: information. He doesn't "handle" people, but instead he motivates, guides, organizes people to do their own work. His tool - the only tool - to do all this is the spoken or written word or the language of numbers. It does not matter whether the manager's job is engineering, accounting, or spelling. To be effective, a manager must have the ability to listen and to read, and the ability to speak and to write. Managers need skill in getting their thinking across to other people."
This describes quite adequately the manager's role in the communication process.
The Communication Channels
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The communication channel selected for transmitting a message plays a significant role in maintaining the quality of the original message in its passage from the sender to receiver. The sender, given the opportunity to weigh the merits of using an oral or written communication, or a combination of the two, selects the most effective for the situation.
Regardless of the communication channel selected, the sender will encounter obstacles. In the previous chapter, the various barriers to effective communication were analyzed. Considering the possible barriers, the sender must choose the channel which he feels will best guarantee transfer of the essence and meaning of his message without misunderstanding or distortion.
To counteract possible interference in the communication channel, the message should attract attention, contain redundancy, continue repetition, or use a combination of these approaches.
To attract attention, the message must be different from others competing for the recipient's time. A short handwritten message instead of the usual typed message is one method that can attract attention.
To provide redundancy, the message must be rephrased several times (the technique used in newspaper articles), and/or summarized in the final paragraph. The sender should avoid too much redundancy because this tends to clutter the communication channel.
To provide repetition, the message must be transmitted through more than one channel, as in spoken and written form, or transmitted more than once through the same channel, as in TV advertising.
Now, let's turn our attention to the basic communication channels within an organization. There are three channels: formal, informal, and unofficial.
Formal The communication within the formal organizational structure that transmits goals, policies, procedures, and directions.
Informal The communication outside the formal organizational structure that fills the organizational gaps, maintains the linkages, and handles the one-time situations.
Unofficial The interpersonal communication within (or among) the social structure of the organization that serves as the vehicle for casual interpersonal exchanges, and transmittal of unofficial communications.
A more detailed examination of each of these communication channels will provide a better understanding of these functions.
Formal communication - written or oral - follows the chain of command of the formal organization; the communication flows from the manager to his immediate subordinates. Each recipient then re-transmits the message in the selected form to the next lower level of management or to staff members, as appropriate. The message progresses down the chain of command, fanning out along the way, until all who have a need to know are informed. Formal communication also flows upward through the organization on the same basis.
Formal communication normally encompasses the transmittal of goals, policies, instructions, memoranda, and reports; scheduled meetings; and supervisory-subordinate interviews.
No organization operates in a completely formal or structured environment. Communication between operations depicted in an organizational chart do not function as smoothly or as trouble-free as the chart may imply. In most organizations operating effectively, channels of communication have developed outside the hierarchical structure.
The informal communication process supplements the formal process by filling the gaps and/or omissions. Successful managers encourage informal organizational linkages and, at the same time, recognize that circumvention of established lines of authority and communication is not a good regular practice. When lines of authority have been bypassed, the manager must assume responsibility for informing those normally in the chain of command of the action taken.
There is a fine line between using informal communications to expedite the work of the organization and the needless bypassing of the chain of command. The expediting process gets the job done, but bypassing the chain of command causes irritation and can lead to hard feelings. To be effective, the manager must find a way to balance formal and informal communication processes.
Astute program and functional managers recognize that a great deal of communication taking place within their organizations is interpersonal. News of revised policies and procedures, memoranda, and minutes of meetings are subjects of conversation throughout the organization. These subjects often share the floor with discussions of TV shows, sports news, politics, and gossip.
The "grapevine" is a part of the unofficial communication process in any organization. A grapevine arises because of lack of information employees consider important: organizational changes, jobs, or associates. This rumor mill transmits information of highly varying accuracy at a remarkable speed. Rumors tend to fall into three categories: those reflecting anxiety, those involving things hoped for, and those causing divisiveness in the organization. Some rumors fade with the passing of time; others die when certain events occur.
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Employees take part in the grapevine process to the extent that they form groups. Any employee not considered a part of some group is apt to be left out of this unofficial communication process.
The grapevine is not necessarily good or bad. It serves a useful function when it acts as a barometer of employees' feelings and attitudes. Unfortunately, the information traveling along the grapevine tends to become magnified or exaggerated. Employees then become alarmed unnecessarily by what they hear. It is imperative that a manager be continually alert to the circulation of false information. When discovered, positive steps should be taken to provide the correct information immediately.
Coordination - Another Communication Function
One of the major functions of the communication process in an organization is effective coordination. Information available within the various functional groups is normally routed to key decision centers. It must be complete, accurate, and timely. When decisions are made, they must be transmitted to all concerned groups within the organization. The messages containing the decisions must be clear and precise. The success of the response to each message is dependent upon the preciseness of the original message, the communication channel used for transmitting it, the interpretation and understanding of the receiver, and the channel selected for transmitting the feed back. Lawrence Appley states: "There is little risk of over- simplification in saying that good managers are good communicators; poor managers are usually the opposite. If an individual has a sincere desire to clarify his thinking, there is no better way to do it than to put it in writing."
Management must be continually aware of the barriers to effective communication and take steps necessary to keep the channels open. There are some approaches to solving communication problems that are worthy of consideration at this time.
Try to maintain a good relationship. A poor superior-subordinate relationship hampers the communication process.
Don't overlook the importance of upward communication from a subordinate, or lateral communication with a peer. This can hamper the communication process.
Don't clog the channel of communication. Its value may be reduced by a delay in receipt of the communication.
It is better for you as a manager, to pass too much information down the chain of command than to pass too little. The receipt of more information gives your subordinate a feeling of confidence and security; lack of information promotes insecurity and a feeling of not being trusted. The problem in many organizations is that too little information is passed down the chain of command, and too much information is required to be passed up the chain. This problem is discussed in more detail later.
Pay attention to the selection of the form in which the message will be conveyed. A message not conveyed in an acceptable form may fail to pass the barriers in the communication channel, regardless of whether it is moving down the chain of command, up the chain, or laterally.
Different types of organisational structure:
There are different types of organizational structures and a company should choose the one that best suits their needs.
These are the structures that are based on functional division and departments. These are the kind of structures that follow the organization's rules and procedures to the T. they are characterized by having precise authority lines for all levels in the management. Under types of structures under traditional structures are:
Line Structure - this is the kind of structure that has a very specific line of command. The approvals and orders in this kind of structure come from top to bottom in a line. Hence the name line structure. This kind of structure is suitable for smaller organizations like small accounting firms and law offices. This is the sort of structure that allows for easy decision making, and also very informal in nature. They have fewer departments, which makes the entire organization a very decentralized one.
Line and Staff Structure - though line structure is suitable for most organizations, especially small ones, it is not effective for larger companies. This is where the line and staff organizational structure comes into play. Line and structure combines the line structure where information and approvals come from top to bottom, with staff departments for support and specialization. Line and staff organizational structures are more centralized. Managers of line and staff have authority over their subordinates, but staff managers have no authority over line managers and their subordinates. The decision making process becomes slower in this type of organizational structure because of the layers and guidelines that are typical to it, and lets not forget the formality involved.
Functional structure - this kind of organizational structure classifies people according to the function they perform in their professional life or according to the functions performed by them in the organization. The organization chart for a functional based organization consists of Vice President, Sales department, Customer Service Department, Engineering or production department, Accounting department and Administrative department.
This is the kind of structure that is based on the different divisions in the organization. These structures can be further divided into:
Product structure - a product structure is based on organizing employees and work on the basis of the different types of products. If the company produces three different types of products, they will have three different divisions for these products.
Market Structure - market structure is used to group employees on the basis of specific market the company sells in. a company could have 3 different markets they use and according to this structure, each would be a separate division in the structure.
Geographic structure - large organizations have offices at different place, for example there could be a north zone, south zone, west and east zone. The organizational structure would then follow a zonal region structure.
This is a structure, which is a combination of function, and product structures. This combines both the best of both worlds to make an efficient organizational structure. This structure is the most complex organizational structure.
It is important to find an organizational structure that works best for the organization, as the wrong set up could hamper proper functioning in the organization.