6.6 Determinants of the Organizational Structure

The key functions that managers perform include planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This module focuses specifically on the organizing function. Organizing involves coordinating and allocating a firm’s resources so that the firm can carry out its plans and achieve its goals. This organizing or structuring process is accomplished by:

  • Determining work activities and dividing up tasks (division of labour)
  • Grouping jobs and employees (departmentalization)
  • Assigning authority and responsibilities (delegation)

The result of the organizing process is a formal structure within an organization. An organization is the order and design of relationships within a company or firm. It consists of two or more people working together with a common objective and clarity of purpose. Formal organizations also have well-defined lines of authority, channels for information flow, and means of control. Human, material, financial, and information resources are deliberately connected to form the business organization. Some connections are long-lasting, such as the links among people in the finance or marketing department. Others can be changed at almost any time—for example, when a committee is formed to study a problem.

Every organization has some kind of underlying structure. Typically, organizations base their frameworks on traditional, contemporary, or team-based approaches. Traditional structures are more rigid and group employees by function, products, processes, customers, or regions. Contemporary and team-based structures are more flexible and assemble employees to respond quickly to dynamic business environments. Regardless of the structural framework a company chooses to implement, all managers must first consider what kind of work needs to be done within the firm.

A photo shows a large Ikea building with cars parked beside it.
Figure 6.4 (Credit: JJBers/ flickr/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))
Founded in 1943, Sweden retailer IKEA has grown from a small mail-order operation to a global force in home furnishings with more than 390 stores throughout Europe, North America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Best known for its contemporary furniture designs, highly trafficked store openings, and quirky advertising, the IKEA Group consists of multiple divisions corresponding to the company’s retail, supply chain, sales, and design and manufacturing functions. What factors likely influenced the development of IKEA’s organizational structure as the company expanded over the years? Division of Labor

The process of dividing work into separate jobs and assigning tasks to workers is called division of labour. In a fast-food restaurant, for example, some employees take or fill orders, others prepare food, a few clean and maintain equipment, and at least one supervises all the others. In an auto assembly plant, some workers install rearview mirrors, while others mount bumpers on bumper brackets. The degree to which the tasks are subdivided into smaller jobs is called specialization. Employees who work at highly specialized jobs, such as assembly-line workers, perform a limited number and variety of tasks. Employees who become specialists at one task, or a small number of tasks, develop greater skill in doing that particular job. This can lead to greater efficiency and consistency in production and other work activities. However, a high degree of specialization can also result in employees who are disinterested or bored due to the lack of variety and challenge.

Traditional Structures

After a company divides the work it needs to do into specific jobs, managers then group the jobs together so that similar or associated tasks and activities can be coordinated. This grouping of people, tasks, and resources into organizational units is called departmentalization. It facilitates the planning, leading, and control processes.

An organization chart is a visual representation of the structured relationships among tasks and the people given the authority to do those tasks. In the organization chart in Figure 6.5: “Organization Chart for a Typical Appliance Manufacturer”, each figure represents a job, and each job includes several tasks. The sales manager, for instance, must hire salespeople, establish sales territories, motivate and train the salespeople, and control sales operations. The chart also indicates the general type of work done in each position.

At the top of the chart is the president. Three lines extend from the president; one line goes to finance, a second line goes to operations, and the third line goes to marketing. 3 lines extend from finance; one extends to manager, allocations and inventory control. The second line extends to manager, accounting. The third line extends to manager, financial planning. 3 lines extend from operations; one extends to production manager, large appliances. The second line extends to production manager, small appliances. The third line extends to director of human resources. 3 lines extend from marketing; the first line extends to sales manager. The second line extends to director of customer service. The third line extends to distribution manager.
Figure 6.5: Organization Chart for a Typical Appliance Manufacturer (Attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license)
As Exhibit 6.6 shows, five basic types of departmentalization are commonly used in organizations:
Functional departmentalization shows a president, with lines extending to legal, human resources, manufacturing, engineering, marketing, and finance. Product departmentalization shows an administrator and C E O, with lines extending to head of outpatient slash emergency treatment, head of pediatrics, head of cardiology, head of orthopedics, and head of obstetrics slash gynecology. Process departmentalization shows a plant superintendent with lines extending to lumber cutting and treatment, furniture assembly, furniture finishing, and shipping. Customer departmentalization shows the vice president of marketing, with lines extending to marketing manager, railroad customers; and marketing manager, aircraft customers; and marketing manager, automotive customers, and marketing manager, military customers. Geographic departmentalization shows the vice president of marketing, with lines extending to the director, U S and Canadian marketing; and director, European marketing; and director, Latin American marketing.
Figure 6.6: Five Traditional Ways to Organize (Attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license.)
  1. Functional departmentalization, which is based on the primary functions performed within an organizational unit (marketing, finance, production, sales, and so on). Ethan Allen Interiors, a vertically integrated home furnishings manufacturer, continues its successful departmentalization by function, including retail, manufacturing and sourcing, product design, logistics, and operations, which includes tight financial controls.1
  2. Product departmentalization, which is based on the goods or services produced or sold by the organizational unit (such as outpatient/emergency services, pediatrics, cardiology, and orthopedics). For example, ITT is a diversified leading manufacturer of highly engineered components and customized technology solutions for the transportation, industrial, and oil and gas markets. The company is organized into four product divisions: Industrial Process (pumps, valves, and wastewater treatment equipment), Control Technologies (motion control and vibration isolation products), Motion Technologies (shock absorbers, brake pads, and friction materials), and Interconnect Solutions (connectors for a variety of markets).2
  3. Process departmentalization, which is based on the production process used by the organizational unit (such as lumber cutting and treatment, furniture finishing, and shipping). For example, the organization of Gazprom Neft, a Russian oil company, reflects the activities the company needs to perform to extract oil from the ground and turn it into a final product: exploration and research, production (drilling), refining, and marketing and distribution.3 Pixar, the animated-movie company now part of Disney, is divided into three parallel yet interactive process-based groups: technology development, which delivers computer graphics tools; creative development, which creates stories and characters and animates them; and production, which coordinates the film-making process.4
  4. Customer departmentalization, which is based on the primary type of customer served by the organizational unit (such as wholesale or retail purchasers). The PNC Financial Services Group offers a wide range of services for all of its customers and is structured by the type of consumer it serves: retail banking for consumers; the asset management group, with a specific focus on individuals as well as corporations, unions, municipalities, and others; and corporate and institutional banking for middle-market companies nationwide.5
  5. Geographic departmentalization, which is based on the geographic segmentation of organizational units (such as U.S. and Canadian marketing, European marketing, and Latin American marketing). People are assigned to a particular organizational unit because they perform similar or related tasks, or because they are jointly responsible for a product, client, or market. Decisions about how to departmentalize affect the way management assigns authority, distributes resources, rewards performance, and sets up lines of communication. Many large organizations use several types of departmentalization. For example, Procter & Gamble (P&G), the multibillion-dollar consumer-products company, integrates four different types of departmentalization, which the company refers to as “four pillars.” First, the Global Business Units (GBU) divide the company according to products (baby, feminine, and family care; beauty; fabric and home care; and health and grooming). Then, P&G uses a geographical approach, creating business units to market its products around the world. There are Selling and Market Operations (SMO) groups for North America; Latin America; Europe; Asia Pacific; Greater China; and India, the Middle East, and Africa. P&G’s third pillar is the Global Business Services division (GBS), which also uses geographic departmentalization. GBS provides technology processes and standard data tools to enable the GBUs and SMOs to better understand the business and to serve consumers and customers better. It supports P&G business units in areas such as accounting and financial reporting, information technology, purchases, payroll and benefits administration, and facilities management. Finally, the divisions of the Corporate Functions pillar provide a safety net to all the other pillars. These divisions are comprised of functional specialties such as customer business development; external relations; human resources; legal, marketing, consumer, and market knowledge; research and development; and workplace services.6

    Line-and-Staff Organization

    The line organization is designed with direct, clear lines of authority and communication flowing from the top managers downward. Managers have direct control over all activities, including administrative duties. An organization chart for this type of structure would show that all positions in the firm are directly connected via an imaginary line extending from the highest position in the organization to the lowest (where production of goods and services takes place). This structure, with its simple design and broad managerial control, is often well-suited to small, entrepreneurial firms.

    As an organization grows and becomes more complex, the line organization can be enhanced by adding staff positions to the design. Staff positions provide specialized advisory and support services to line managers in the line-and-staff organization, shown in Figure 6.7: “Line-and-Staff Organization”. In daily operations, individuals in line positions are directly involved in the processes used to create goods and services. Individuals in staff positions provide the administrative and support services that line employees need to achieve the firm’s goals. Line positions in organizations are typically in areas such as production, marketing, and finance. Staff positions are found in areas such as legal counselling, managerial consulting, public relations, and human resource management.

    At the top of the diagram is the president, which is shown as a line function. A line extends down, and connects to three separate line functions, which are vice president of marketing, and vice president of manufacturing, and vice president of finance. On each side of this connective line are staff functions, which are corporate attorney, and assistant to president. A line extends down from vice president of marketing to 3 line functions, which are each labeled sales manager. On each side of this connective line are staff functions, shown as marketing research specialist, and advertising specialist. A line extends down from vice president, and connects to 3 line functions, each is labeled, supervisor. A staff function extends from the connective line, and is quality control engineer. A line extends down from vice president of finance, and connects to 2 line functions, cost accountant, and credit analysis. Between these 2 positions is an internal auditor, which is a line function.
    Figure 6.7: Line-and-Staff Organization (Attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)


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