Which Organizational Structure Matters: Mechanistic Versus Organic

Organizational Behavior

Employees and managers are the human capital needed to keep the wheels moving in an organization.  The distinction between employees and managers defines their position in the organization, but it is of utmost importance for a firm to have the right organizational structure, culture and incentives in place in order to allow its employees to be innovative and perform to their maximum ability.  The structure of an organization will have a direct impact on their objectives.  This structure will also determine the modes in which it operates and performs.

By means of contrast, the mechanistic and organic models of organizational design are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.  Based on my research, the mechanistic design principles state that the most effective organizational structure has “centralized authority, narrow spans of control, more specialist positions, and homogeneous, functional departments”[1].  Mechanistic organizations are more conservative, they believe in very little change, and are designed to do exactly what they intended.  The focus of a mechanistic design is efficiency.  Communication tends to follow formal channels and employees are given specific job descriptions.  This description sounds awfully similar to a few companies I’ve worked for in the past.  We were taught by a very structured and unambiguous one day training course.  An employee training manual became our only reference tool.  Managers and supervisors rarely communicated with us unless it was to delegate the tasks and projects we needed to complete.  Surely, it sounds a bit like a prison environment but as depressing as it sounds, we worked like a well-oiled machine.  Thinking back about my experience, the mechanistic design works well for lower level administrative task, and in my case as a data entry clerk.  The repetitiveness and stability of the procedures is needed in this scenario to maximize efficiency.

In an organic culture, organizations are much more willing to risk-taking and valuing employees.  As we’ve touched on the topic of creativity from our previous class, many competitive high-tech firms tend to have an organic culture (i.e. Google, Kodak, and Electronic Arts).  The organic design does not stifle creativity because it looks to maximize employee’s satisfaction, flexibility and development.  This structure helps organizations recognize the existence of their employees.  The structure exists unobtrusively, and open communication is encouraged between all levels of management and employees.  The responsibilities and success of a firm is shared rather than specified.  The job of management and leadership will be to help employees learn and organize how they can succeed in their positions, individually and as teams.  In addition, employees are encouraged to participate in building their own structure, including methods for holding themselves accountable to essential outcomes.

Both organizational structures have their own benefits, but as generations shift, I believe younger employees may be more inclined to work for an organization with an organic structure.  The reason for my prediction is because of the way we are educated.  We are taught about employee empowerment, work/life balance, and the need for intrinsic motivation.  Employers must learn to adapt these needs in order to maximize the utility of their employees.  Regardless of the skill level required or the description of a task organizations should not be characterized by “bureaucratic policies and procedures that limit individual creativity and initiative”[2].  Checkout the video below on Accenture: Workplace 2.0 and let me know what you think about this highly innovative organizational design.




One thought on “Which Organizational Structure Matters: Mechanistic Versus Organic

  1. I think a lot of small and medium businesses have the structure of mechanistic design and it is a common structure where the manager holds the most authority. I believe the reason organization with this structure refuses to change is because this is probably the most traditional type of design that many organization has taken. It is like a culture for them. However, I have to disagree that with this structure design, only the manual and the training course are the only materials that teach you how to do the job and the managers and supervisors do not. If you are in a small business, most of the time, managers would ask other employees to teach or lead new employees to get them use to the workplace, and the manager would come around to give some advice to whether if the new employees are doing right or not.

    In my opinion, I agree that organic structure is what most employees would look for when they look for job since most successful businesses or organizations uses this organic structure. It also brings out so many different innovative ideas that mechanistic design structure organization could not bring out.

    I think the highly innovative organizational design in the video is a really effective design for most business because people could communicate with each other and there are areas where people can relax and have space to generate their ideas. Also, the business workplace is really flexible.

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