What Is an Organic Organizational Structure?

Jim B.

Organic organizational structure is a concept in the business world that attempts to take into account the growing complexity of a developing organization. The theory basically states that a business should have significant flexibility to react to commercial environments that can be unstable and unpredictable. Such an structure flies in the face of the viewpoint — based in the Industrial Revolution — that imagines businesses as machines. Some of the important characteristics of this type of structure are as flexibility in assigning tasks, integration between departments, and decentralized decision-making.

An organic organizational structure attempts to take into account the growing complexity of a developing organization.
An organic organizational structure attempts to take into account the growing complexity of a developing organization.

The theory behind organizational structure in the business world has evolved greatly as business has become more complex. Among other things, the overwhelming impact of technology and computers, the increasing globalization of business, and the advanced sophistication of customers have heightened demands on businesses everywhere. Luckily, these businesses also now have increased resources to meet those demands. An organic organizational structure can be the best concept for businesses in the modern age.

In the past, the idea of a business as a machine was more than acceptable for delivering what customers needed. The business environment was relatively stable, and, as such, an assembly line mentality to organizational structure was effective enough. That approach would likely come up short in the increasingly unstable and ever-changing current business environment. As a result, an organic organizational structure, which views the business almost as a living thing, has become far more popular and useful.

It makes sense to use an organic organizational structure, since it is more effective in utilizing the resources at companies' disposal than earlier models might have. For example, modern employees have far more diverse skill sets than their counterparts from the past. Since that is the case, giving them more responsibility to make the decisions that will have consequences on the business as a whole is an effective strategy.

While there is no standard way to approach organic organizational structure, there are certain aspects that are usually in play in most of these structures. In addition to the aforementioned democratic decision-making process, organic structures usually blur the lines between departments, which is made possible thanks to technology allowing for improved communications. Most organic structures are also focused on growth, which means that the structure is malleable enough to transform in the future to meet unforeseen demands.

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Discussion Comments

You are right, Telesyst, flexibility is key in the workforce of the future.

If the recent events of the past five or six years have taught us anything, it's that no company, no matter how popular or well-established, is too big to fail.

When companies start to see signs of trouble, they begin to make cuts. If an employee's department is cut, they will have a major advantage if they are able to slide into a position somewhere else in the organization.

A company that can adapt with the times and has employees willing to do what it takes to ensure the success of the business as a whole will be successful long beyond one with the more machine-type mentality mentioned in the article.

Although employees should still be hired for and put in positions that benefit from their specific areas of expertise, familiarity with the inner workings of the entire business is a definite plus. This is achieved through long-term experience with the company and constant company-wide training.

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