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Mechanistic versus Organic Organisational Structures Essay

With this in mind, organizations turn to management to combat the budding problem, through organizing. Organizing involves the structuring of the resources of the organization in order to achieve its objectives. This structuring includes:

*Dividing tasks into jobs (Adam Smith 1700’s).

*Assigning jobs.

*Clustering of jobs into units, departments etc. to form the shape of the organization.

*Delegating authority and establishing a chain of command.

However, we cannot see the management function of organizing as the sole function of the manager, in order to combat these changes (individuals and groups in organizations will inevitably contribute to organizing the organization by the way they “do” or “don’t do” activities). Organizing involves the way people impose meanings, interpret actions and make responses to things, when they cannot make sense of these things; people reinterpret them according to their own views and often try to impose them on others. Therefore, the organizational structure is strengthened, through various means for example performance appraisal, different pay rates etc.

In light of this, they are many factors to consider for organizations to design the type of structure which best suits the way they wish to achieve their goals. What design is finally agreed upon depends on a number of decisions such as:

*Do we want/need to decentralize decision making.

*Are they needs to deal with problems such as the effect of structure on communications; staff/line conflict especially the tension between employees and experts and line managers; centralization versus decentralization etc.

This leads to the most important question, which design options should be considered, but before considering however, there are a number of variables which need to be taken into account with design options such as strategy, size, technology and the environment surrounding the organization before any decisions can be made.

Although these differences between organizations or enormous, they are many similarities that enable them to be classified into models. Two of these extreme models are mechanistic and organic which was developed by Tom Burns & G M Stalker in there study of electronics firms in the United Kingdom.

Mechanistic and organic management systems are at opposite ends of the range of design systems that organizations adopt, firms can move along this range from one end to the other, or occupy positions in between (boundaryless organization) depending on the nature of there work, and changing circumstances. The kinds of practices organizations choose along the range vary according to whether the environment is stable, and the technological conditions are well understood (when mechanistic management is appropriate), or whether the environment is highly unpredictable, with rapid technological change and boundless market opportunities, (when organic management is appropriate).

However, my focus is on the organic design structure, organic structures have a flat or horizontal structure with only one or two levels of management where the employee’s knowledge or expertise in their area is shared in the organization. This teamwork atmosphere allows knowledge to be shared in the organization which plays an important role in the day to day running of the business.

Clearly in organizations where the structure is horizontal, all employees contribute and have a share of knowledge and expertise within the organization. The insight on this was as a result of the Burns and Stalker’s study, where they provided the clearest analysis on the organic design system, they stated it had:

*Work organized in a way to avoid specifying individual tasks

*Communication, patterns which are: 1) Unending and detailed which are at the helm of the decision making process. 2) Completely free and informal 3) Vertical and horizontal as needed to get the job done.

*An informal and constantly changing pattern of authority as roles of the organization tries to reshape itself to address new problems and tackle any unforeseen possibilities.

*Responsibility of employees to the whole task confronting the organization.

*Authority is invested in the employees with the appropriate knowledge, skill and expertise.

This type of structure features a decentralized approach to management. Decentralization is where there is a delegation of authority to lower levels of the organization, where more emphasis is placed on employee skills and capability and the atmosphere is a more comfortable and amiable for the employees to work. However, where the actual decision making should be done by the higher levels of management depends upon the organization and the circumstances surrounding the problem that has arisen.

The organic design structure also gives rise to the divisional approach where departments are grouped together to attain the specific goals of the organization whether it be a specific product or service provided by the organization. This approach is based mainly in large corporations who provide products or services for different markets or geographical locations and each department must be self sufficient. With this approach managers would not be delayed in their decision making process by the higher levels of management, the head office just acts as a support system and focuses more on strategic planning for the organization

Although they are several additives which can be derived from the divisional approach there are also obstacles that can arise as well. While this approach tends to be flexible and adaptable to changes surrounding the organization, since management has the freedom in there decision making process without unnecessary consultation with higher levels of management, this freedom sometimes tends to lead to repetition of time, efforts and energies on a hopeless project.

Consequently, the adoption of the organic management structure for the organization means that the old classical management techniques of job descriptions, job grading, and methods used to identify the completion of tasks will be no more. It will be where managers set broad goals, which they support by providing resources to those with the knowledge, abilities, experience and skills to achieve them. The employees become the experts while on the other hand managers become the facilitators to provide the right conditions and remove barriers which effect performance.

It must be made clear, those organizations that are met with the natural uncertainty of the environment, must respond in ways to match this uncertainty, rather than trying to reduce it. This means that rather than adopting the traditional approach where management is viewed as the controlling of subordinates in the mechanistic design which can only function effectively under a stable environment. They must adopt the organic design structure which is not one of controlling and systemizing, but one of facilitating and nurturing of employees to produce to the best of their abilities in order to achieve the organizations goals and objectives when these changes occur. The mechanistic design is without a doubt, not the right model regardless of how many tools, steps and measures are classified for managing in this way.

Clearly, when goals of the organization are unclear and the methods for achieving them uncertain, managing in the new innovative way (organic style) can only prove to be productive for the organization.


Daft, R. L., Marcic, D. ( 1995 ). Understanding Management. Second Edition.

The Dryden Press.

Daft, R. L., Marcic, D. ( 2001 ). Understanding Management. Third Edition.


Mintzberg, H, (1979). The Structuring of Organizations. Prentice Hall

. Clearly our deeply embedded ideas (culture) about the management of activities need to include more emphasis on the building of relationships and the development of communication (organic design) rather than using the traditional approach where management is viewed as the controlling of subordinates (mechanistic design). Without a doubt this is not the right model regardless of how many tools, steps and measures are classified for managing in this way.

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