A Closer Look at Organic & Mechanistic Organizational Structures

My research is based on the work done by theorists T. Burns and G.M. Stalker (1961). The theorists argue that organizations need different kinds of structure to control their activities that will allow the company to adapt and react to changes and uncertainties in their environment.

Changes in environment can be analyzed through a pestel analysis, where changes in the factors found in the pestel analysis may either stabilize or destabilize the environment of a given company.

Companies facing a dynamic and uncertain environment may have to develop or maintain an organic organizational structure, whereas companies operating in a stable environment may benefit from developing or maintaining a mechanism organizational structure.

The reason behind this is that organic structures can process and distribute information and knowledge faster within the organization, which then results in an increased ability to respond or react to changes in the environment.

However, mechanistic structures may act as an effective and efficient organizational structure for companies operating in a more stable and certain environment. Companies operating in a stable environment may not need to make decisions quickly. Likewise, many of the day-to-day decisions and operating procedures may be formalized and centralized, because there is no inherent need for constant change or innovation.

Organizational structure can inhibit or foster creativity and innovation. The problem with organizational structure, however is that it is resultant of many factors including history, organic growth, strategy, operational design, product diversity, logistics, marketing, client base, supplier base and so on.

Therefore, what managers need, are not recipes for complete structural change, but insights into the properties of fostering structures that can be adapted into the existing structure.

In our case of investigating Mechanic and Organic structures, Mechanic structures include centralized control and authority, clearly defined tasks, vertical communication links, obedience to supervisors , rigidity and inflexibility. Organic structures, which are more generally preferred, focus on decentralisation of authority, loosely defined, horizontal communications, greater individual authority, flexible and acceptable.

Mechanistic and organic structures are two possibilities at opposite ends of the organizational spectrum. They give shape to the concept of the factors of organizational structure. A mechanistic organization is characterized by the following structural factors:

  • Degree of work specialization is high
  • Departmentalization is rigid
  • Managerial hierarchy has many layers
  • Span of control is narrow
  • Decision making is centralized
  • Chain of command is long
  • Organizational structure is very tall

While an organic organization is characterized by the following factors:

  • Degree of work specialization is low
  • Departmentalization is loose
  • Managerial hierarchy has few layers
  • Span of control is wide
  • Decision making is decentralized
  • Chain of command is short
  • Organizational structure is flat

Organic Organizational Design
www.hinrichsconsulting.com

Mechanistic & Organic System
www.valuesbasedmanagement.net

Organic Structure Theory
www.washingtoniv.com

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About Sydney Roberts

Business Major - Marketing Maven - Fashion-Addict - Foodie - Aspiring Young Entrepreneur -- {Dreamer} Sydney is in her final year to achieving a Bachelor in Business Administration, with a focus on Marketing and Social Media from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She also holds a Diploma in Marketing Management, graduating with co-op. During Sydney's co-op with the university she completed two work terms - One internship at Vancouver's KRAVE Media Corp. and the other in New York City's Brand Marketers in Times Square. Sydney is an Ambassador for the university and a member of BC's Association of Integrated Marketers {BCAIM}. She is also a contributor for Vancouver Fashion Week.

5 responses to “A Closer Look at Organic & Mechanistic Organizational Structures

  1. Organizational structures ties well with organizational culture. We all understand that structure needs to be tailored to the organization for it to work best. The culture of the organization is different in every work place, just like their structure should function to their personal work environment and is not always the same even with a company. I worked for a company for about four years. I work with multiple reps within the Lower Mainland who worked with each store or department. Every visit I made to each location was different. Some places wanted me to only talk to the manager or the department, some wanted their whole team to listen, and others didn’t care I was there and lost the benefit of me being there to help them. This was all within the same company. Companies should get to know their employees and see which structure works best to their advantage. The important this is that people work and communicate well together, not what structure you grew up in.

    • Rosa,

      It sounds like the company you worked for had focused on having a different structure for each location that was more tailored to the needs of the employees working there. It also sounds like this organization had a more decentralized structure. I actually did my article on centralized versus decentralized organizational structures, as well as on the importance of choosing a structure that will match the organization’s ultimate goals and objectives. Read it at: http://bit.ly/k7ZUY2

  2. Why should an organization’s structure be affected by its environment? Your post has answered it – because of environmental uncertainty! Some organizations face relatively stable and simple environments; others face dynamic and complex environments. Bacause uncertainty threatens an organization’s effectiveness, managers will try to minimize it. One way to reduce environmental uncertainty is through adjustments in the organization’s structure. The greater the uncertainty, the more an organization needs the flexibility offered by an organic structure. On the other hand, in stable, simple environments, mechanistic structures tend to be more effective.

    btw, like your cartoon~

  3. Sydney,

    I think that an Organic Organizational Structure is an evolution of a decentralized structure that has been brought upon by new entrepreneurs. This type of organizational structure is more flexible when it comes to change, and as a result is able to foster greater innovation and development.

    I recently read an interesting article about Google; and how its organizational structure is the 4th most admired in the US. I believe its ability to be extremely creative and innovative is due to the fact that it has a more organic organizational structure. Check out the article at http://bit.ly/qbWIgY

  4. Organizational structures and their working Mechanism effects every industry.Moreover a good workforce is asset for any organization !

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