The Trend Toward Organic

We’ve all heard this recipe for disaster – too many bosses! When there are too many people taking charge or too many people to report to, a particular arrangement becomes very difficult to work in. Messaging gets lost in the convolution, you get conflicting information from various “bosses” and it all seems highly inefficient. Structure puts everybody in line, and a good structure clearly defines everybody’s role.

In addition to pointing out the ineffectiveness of an outdated organizational structure, Gill Corkindale points out that. “[In an organization with an unclear structure] responsibilities can be overlooked, staffing can be inappropriate, and people — and even functions — can work against each other.” (Corkindale, 2011).

This funny animation about waiting in line sums up a poor organizational structure really well – it may look like there is order, but in reality people (or bears) are going back and forth and have no idea where they should really be. They can end up in the wrong line, the longer line, and waste more time doing their task inefficiently.

http://youtu.be/kIiPa3V6O2g

Many newer organizations operate under an organic model. That is, a flat structure using cross-hierarchal and cross-functional teams. They have low formalization and rely on collaborative decision making. (Robbins & Langton, 2003, p. 446)

This table below compares a Mechanistic Structure (hierarchal, highly formalized, stereo-typical things we think of when we think of an organizational structure) to an Organic Structure.

Image

source: http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/organic_vs_mechanistic_structure.htm

While of course it is important to have a clear leader, there is no denying that employees will be more motivated when empowered to make some of their own decisions. Coca Cola recognizes both these needs in their structure, and functions with a hybrid of both a mechanistic and organic structure. It is common for regular meetings between top managers and employees to keep one another up-to-date on the operations of the company. With these organic characteristics, there is still a level of formality in decision making to ensure consistency throughout the brand.  (Valluri, Nahata, Jangalwa, & Sethi, 2010, pp 11-15)

A fusion of both these structures can ensure the greatest amount of efficiency. Imagine if there was one person directing the bears in the video. The bears are free to pick whichever queue they like. If there is a person managing the lines and making sure everybody is moving at a fair pace and not being held up at the desk, the bears won’t switch back and forth and end up wasting time and resources.

Thought of the day: Food or organizational structure – a bit of organic never hurt anybody!

Sources

Borgatti, S. P. (2001, September). Organic vs Mechanistic Structures . Introduction to Organizational Behaviour. Retrieved July 7, 2012, from http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/organic_vs_mechanistic_structure.htm

Corkindale, G. (2011, February 11). The Importance of Organizational Design and Structure. HBR. Retrieved July 7, 2012, from http://blogs.hbr.org/corkindale/2011/02/the_importance_of_organization.html

Robbins, S. P., & Langton, N. (2003). Chapter 12- Organizational Structure. InOrganizational Behaviour: Concepts, Controversies, Applications. (3rd ed.). (p. 446). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Valluri, H., Nahata, S., Jangalwa, A., & Sethi, G. R. (2010). Organizational Structure of The Coca-Cola Company. Scribd. Retrieved July 7, 2012, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/37483762/Organizational-Structure-of-The-Coca-Cola-Company#outer_page_15)

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5 Responses to The Trend Toward Organic

  1. Jim Martens says:

    Great post!

    This subject always reminds me of the movie office space and this hilarious scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0flsg4GMQxQ&feature=related. While the movie displays it a humourous it is a serious issue in large mechanical organizations. People always joke about how government agencies take forever to do anything, how its too hard to break through all the red tape. The jokes are mirrored in fact; these types of organizations work really well when the market place does not change and the rules are set and people need to know exactly what to do at all times. There is little room for creativity and innovation.

    However, with the advent of technology these organization’s mass has become their greatest limiting factor. I think in the next couple decades there is going to be a huge upheval in how our public services are run and very mechanical/or static organizations such as the military and church organizations also large media industries are going to have to change. You already see large media organizations needing to change due to changing copyright outlooks of the public via torrents.

    Who knows what will happen!?

    Have a good weekend

    Jim Martens

  2. Great post. I agree when you said that it is important to have a clear leader, but there is no denying that employees will be more motivated when empowered to make some of their own decisions. In larger organizations, sometimes empowering employees is challenging because of all the mid-level managers. Everyone has the same authority and they will have to get internal buy in from their departments to get final approval. Ultimately it still has to go to a VP or higher manager to make the decision. The speed at which this can be done sometimes can be challenging. I think all larger companies should evaluate their current structures to see where changes can be made to increase efficiencies in the organization. Like you said, it may appear to be in order, when in reality there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Check out my latest blog post where I talk about contingency theory.

    http://leannecarey713.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/mechanistic-vs-organic-organizations-introducing-contingency-theory/#comments

  3. Interesting blog post Amaanali. One part of the blog that stands out for me is when you mentioned regular meetings between top managers and employees to keep each other up to date on the operations of the company. I believe that such an open line of communication is vital with regards to any organizational structure including organic. Recently, in my own job there have been many layoffs and cut backs. It was discovered that my manager had not passed on information that restructuring and cutbacks would be coming. Once some employees got wind of the information being withheld by my manager, they were extremely upset. If my manager would have mentioned that there would be restructuring within the organization, a lot of employee dissatisfaction could have been avoided. Unfortunately, the damage has been done and trust has been lost between my manager and the employees that report to her.

    Here is an interesting piece from businessweek mentions the importance of providing employees with information that is relevant to their jobs.

    http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/0001/bk000114.htm

  4. AntonyLe55 says:

    Haha, that was a great video. Perhaps that bear needed to be a bit more decisive and patient. (Of course, I agree that good management of the line would have helped) It was an amusing video, and I’m glad you added it to your post. It also does do a good job of illustrating how it is important to know one’s role in an organization. To be efficient and stay motivated, everybody needs to know what they should do, and who they need to “report” to. When an organization is implementing a new organizational structure, it is especially important that authority and roles be defined to avoid confusion. (http://www.atlanticcanadabusinessblog.com/index.php/2007/03/14/strategy/strategic-and-organizational-structure/) I believe it is critical during this stage, because it’s often difficult to change people’s views, especially when people’s jobs may be at risk. For example, moving from a “taller” organizational structure to a “flatter” one may put middle-managers’ jobs at risk. (Or they lose some of their authority over front-line employees, and with it, their “prestigious” job title. So, it is no surprise that employees may resist new changes.

    I also found your table very helpful to understand the key differences between a mechanistic structure and an organic one. I’m a visual learner, and so I found it to be very informative and to the point.

    By the way, I see you’re an advocate of organic food. I liked how your post had a consistent theme to it: food. Personally, I’m looking forward to incorporating more organic food into my diet. Behind all of the “green-washing” and hype about organic, I do agree with you: “organic never hurt anybody”.

    Great post, and looking forward to your future posts.

    Best regards,
    Antony

  5. sukhvirbains says:

    As always Amaan, great post! Having a leader that you can easily identify is always important when an employee is given tasks to complete. Furthermore, when employees are given some liberal power in my experiences, output rises greatly. In my blog this week I wrote about the span of control and how much is too much. If employees are given more than the general knowledge about their tasks and the power to make administrative changes manager stress goes down and employee motivation and output rises. Furthermore, I agree about the importance of staff meetings as well. In my job we have a team huddle every Sunday morning and in those huddle the company objectives for the week are identified and the importance of these objectives are known. But anyways, looking forward to reading more from you!
    Check out my blog:
    http://sukhvirbains.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/span-of-control-how-much-is-too-much/

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