(Originally published on the OUBS Blog)
Organisations need structure or they would just be a crowd of individuals and this structure is often equated with bureaucracy but downsizing and greater flexibility are in fashion at the moment. But:
â€œWe cannot decide whether to have a structured or a structure less group; only whether or not to have a formally structured one.ï¿½? (Freeman, 1972)
Arguments for clear and public structure:
- Enabling participation: the rules generally enable people to find their way around, co-ordinate activity, make decisions and participate in the organisation.
- Providing a framework for the allocation of responsibilities and authority: The more appropriate the structure, the more effective the working relationships between individuals and departments.
- Establishing an organisationâ€™s identity: structure conveys a message about the values and character of the organisation.
- Continuity and change: bring order into chaos.
Child (1984) suggested that there are recurring symptoms within organisations, results of â€˜structural deficienciesâ€™. There is no one size fits all structure. The challenge is to develop a structure that recognizes what is required while still achieving an efficient use of resources and providing effective services to customers.
In terms of organising work, Burns and Stalker (1961) broke down organisations in the mechanistic type and the organismic type.
You need to divide up work, possibly with specialisation and define a job in terms of allowable inputs and expected outputs, without having to specify what goes on in between.
Organisation chars reveal key elements of a structure:
- the span of control (how many do you control directly)
- the layers of management
- the degree of autonomy
- the extent of specialisation (expert or routine)
- the extent of overlap
- reporting processes
Forms of organisational structure include:
- product or service
- project team
To achieve co-ordination, you need something like:
- rules, programmes and procedures
- remits and referrals
- setting targets and goals
- creating slack resources
- creating self-contained tasks
- investment in vertical information systems
- creating lateral relations
Remember that information, especially processing and distribution, is crucial to effective integration/management.
- any one ideal structure
- sudden switches
- reactions to the terminology of structural issues
- trying to achieve perfection