Organizational Structure

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Organizational structure refers to the way that an organization arranges people and jobs so that its work can be performed and its goals can be met. When a work group is very small and face-to-face communication is frequent, formal structure may be unnecessary, but in a larger organization decisions have to be made about the delegation of various tasks. Thus, procedures are established that assign responsibilities for various functions. It is these decisions that determine the organizational structure.

In an organization of any size or complexity, employees' responsibilities typically are defined by what they do, who they report to, and for managers, who reports to them. Over time these definitions are assigned to positions in the organization rather than to specific individuals. The relationships among these positions are illustrated graphically in an organizational chart (see Figures 1a and 1b). The best organizational structure for any organization depends on many factors including the work it does; its size in terms of employees, revenue, and the geographic dispersion of its facilities; and the range of its businesses (the degree to which it is diversified across markets).

There are multiple structural variations that organizations can take on, but there are a few basic principles that apply and a small number of common patterns. The following sections explain these patterns and provide the historical context from which some of them arose. The first section addresses organizational structure in the twentieth century. The second section provides additional details of traditional, vertically-arranged organizational structures. This is followed by descriptions of several alternate organizational structures including those arranged by product, function, and geographical or product markets. Next is a discussion of combination structures, or matrix organizations. The discussion concludes by addressing emerging and potential future...
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