American University M.A In U.S National Security Foreign Language Requirement Leadership – Mechanistic and Organic Organizational Structures

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Leadership – Mechanistic and Organic Organizational Structures

Organizations are defined by McShane and Von Glinow as “groups of people who work interdependently towards a goal” (McShane, Von Glinow, 2012, p.5). In order for these groups of people to successfully achieve their common goals and objectives, there must be a certain level of strategic coordination between them that will facilitate a degree of collaboration that is effective and efficient. This necessary coordination reflects the organizational structure, which can be broadly categorized as mechanistic or organic (McShane, Von Glinow, 2012).

Characteristics of mechanical and organic structures

The mechanical structure is characterized by a narrow span of control, indicating a tall and vertical structure with many hierarchical layers. Authority in mechanized structures is centralized with power held at the top of the organization. They usually have a high degree of formalization, with a lot of standardization, rules and procedures. Communication flow is like structure, vertical as opposed to horizontal. The organic structure is exactly the opposite. It has a wide control area, making the structure horizontal and flatter.

Decision making is decentralized within the organization. Instead of standardization, organic structures are much more informal and flexible, with a greater horizontal communication flow (McShane, Von Glinow, 2012).

Choose the best organizational structure

At some point, both types of structures are needed in every organization. It is the internal and external environmental dynamics of the organization that determine the degree of mechanistic or organic characteristics that are most suitable at each stage of the organization’s life. Most organizations start out in a very simple form, and become more complex as they grow and expand. Having a smaller number of customers, employees and product lines, creates a relatively stable environment during which the mechanical structure works better.

Stability is the ideal season to standardize procedures, and establish operational rules and policies that create a basic framework for the organization to operate. With fewer employees, the span of control can be tighter and higher, providing closer supervision while casting employees in more specialized roles during these crucial startup periods that could last several years. This higher hierarchical structure also facilitates centralized decision-making, which is appropriate during the time when organizations develop culture and establish their position in their respective industries.

When organizations grow, Daft and Marcic (2011) describe two major changes that occur, which create the need for a more organic structure. The first occurrence is the result of the increase in the customer base, product lines, and / or the number of services offered, which means that the organization must hire more employees. Increasing customer demands also require more specialized customer service, which means more departments. New departments will require the creation of new roles for those departments. New product lines create the need for a greater understanding of the environment and legal regulations regarding those products. All these new challenges may require changing standardized procedures to match the new demands, which increasingly disrupt the carefully planned routine procedures and policies of the mechanistic structure (Daft, Marcic, 2011).

Organizational growth is typically characterized by rapid change, which creates the need for a greater level of coordination throughout the organization. This coordination refers to the quality of the collaboration between employees and departments, which is better facilitated with the flatter organizational structure consistent with the organic structure. It means organizing with teams and networks of people, and increasing the ability of horizontal communication, which encourages the sharing of information that inevitably allows employees in lower positions to make quality and fast decisions in those environments that change quickly. It does not totally alleviate the need for the vertical dimension, but it creates the need for more of the horizontal dimension (Daft, Marcic, 2011).

How the two structures work together

The American National University (NAU) is an excellent example of why organizations need vertical and horizontal dimensions. Its vertical dimension consists of its board of directors and those who oversee the executive functions for the organization and report to the shareholders. This dimension also includes operational departments that have responsibility for environmental elements such as federal regulations. Because the university has both physical facilities and virtual facilities, they must follow state and local regulations, in addition to adhering to Internet security rules. These are all areas that are included with the vertical sphere of its structure. Its horizontal dimension is most applicable to its ability to provide personalized services to its students and staff members. Managing the financial and academic needs of students and staff requires a high quality of collaboration between departments.

Conclusions

Although organizations may favor one structure over another, both mechanical and organic structures are necessary for organizations to achieve their goals. As organizations grow and change to meet rapidly changing environmental factors, they must be able to adapt their structure to their changing environment. Adaptation may require widening their span of control to increase the quality of collaboration; it may involve reducing the level of formalization by aborting or modifying established policies and procedures and other routine functions that are no longer work in the more complex environment; and can include the empowerment of employees between the rank and file, by the willingness to openly share information and power.

References

Daft, RL, Marcic D. (2011). Understanding Management 7th Edition. Southwest Cengage Learning. Mason, OH 45040.

McShane, SL, Von Glinow, MA (2012). Organizational behavior. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. New York, NY. 10020

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