The use of bureaucratic structures has begun
to decline. One reason for this decline is that the inherent assumptions
underlying bureaucracy are unrealistic. The organization cannot function with
mechanical rules and regulations that have limited value in motivating and
leading the modern worker.
In overcoming bureaucratic deficiencies,
many firms are turning to adaptive organization structures, new designs based
on a number of assumptions. One such assumption is that the organization
operates in a dynamic environment. A second is that personnel, task, and
environment are related and must be fit together properly for the best
structure and output. This chapter initially' directed attention to the impact
of technology and its effect on organizational personnel, from the workers
right up to the managers. At the worker level, technology affects social
relationships as well as job content. At the managerial level, it encourages
greater integration of colleagues and of planning effort.
Technology also affects the organization
structure by causing changes in such factors as the length of the line of
command, the span of control of the chief executive, and the ratio of managers
to total personnel. In addition, mechanistic designs tend to give way to
organic ones, as has been seen in the research of Woodward, Zwerman, Lawrence
and Lorsch, and Meyer, to name only five prominent researchers in the
organization-study boom of recent times.
What do these new organic structures look
like? How do they work? Exactly when are they used? These questions are
answered through examinations of project, matrix, and free-form designs. The
project organization form entails "the gathering of the best available
talent to accomplish a specific and complex understanding within time, cost
and/or quality parameters, followed by the disbanding of the team upon
completion of the undertaking. Project organization has been employed in
numerous and diverse ways, from building dams and weapon systems to conducting
research and development and designing bank credit-card systems. The major
advantage of' this organizational form is that it allows conducting research
and development and designing bank credit-card systems. The major advantage of
this organizational form is that it allow's the project manager and team to concentrate
their attention on one specific undertaking.
The matrix structure is a hybrid form of
organization, containing characteristics of both project and functional
structures. In a matrix design, employees are in a sense on partial loan to the
matrix project manager. These employees, therefore, have a dual
responsibility-to the line manager who lent them to the project and to the
project manager for whom they work for the life of the project. The result is a
uniquely horizontal and vertical flow of authority. Since the project manager
has only project authority, this individual must rely on human relations assets
and skills-for example, negotiation, personality, persuasive ability, the aura
of competence, and the brokering of reciprocal favors. While the matrix
structure has advantages, the organization considering its use must also weigh
the disadvantages inherent in it. Only after considering both aspects of the
matrix can an organization make an intelligent decision regarding its overall
Another adaptive organization design is the free-form, or
organic, structure. This design can take any shape, but it always has two prime
characteristics: the downplay of rigid bureaucratic rules and an emphasis on
self-regulation. A number of conglomerates have adopted this organization form.
There are four basic models of matrix structures: project, product-function,
product-region, and multidimensional. Perhaps the greatest advantage of a
free-form structure is its value to the manager who must cope with change.
What kind of structure is best? The
question has no single right answer. "Best" depends on the situation.
For that reason, the area of contingency organization design is currently very
important. Some firms need a mechanistic structure; others work better with an
organic one. The answer to the question thus depends on forces operating on
managers, subordinates task and environment.
This chapter has examined the ways in
which organizations are redesigning their structures in order to adapt more
effectively to their environments. However, the organizing process only helps
bring together the workers and the work. Management still needs a basis for
comparing the plan and the results. This subject is discussed in the next