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Definition of uncertainty in organizations

The word uncertainty comes from the word uncertain whose meaning is unsure, vacillating, undetermined, unclear, ambivalent, indeterminate, random, hazy, dubious or unsystematic. It also means erratic, unmethodical, inconstant, unsteady, sporadic, fitful, unforeseeable, irregular, shilly-shallying, indefinite, hit or miss, haphazard or doubtful. Other words that can be considered synonyms for uncertain are obscure, unascertainable and wavering. From this meaning of the word uncertain, uncertainty can be described as period of unstable or unclear conditions within which a definite response is never at hand.

When environmental uncertainties rock organizations, it is always impossible to foretell what is to come or to be expected and thus prepare a response such a case, the set up of the organization is what determines the cause of action through that period of environmental uncertainty.

4. 2 Organic Organizations or firms Organic organizations are firms or enterprises whose mode of operation is not fixed on any routine. Organic organizations usually have fewer written rules and regulations and they always have a loose structure as Stalker and Burns tell us in their theory on organic and mechanistic organizations (Stalker and Burns, 1962).

The leadership of organic organizations is not clear and there is more horizontal communication than vertical communication. The ability

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of the employers in an organic organization to perform a certain duty is not limited by anyone by any means. There is unlimited freedom and the creativity and innovative nature of the workers in an organic organization is let loose for the benefit of the organization. Organic organizations are ideal for turbulent, unpredictable and unstable circumstances or environments.

The other pronounced characteristics of organic organizations include jobs that are broadly defined, connectednedness and interdependence among the various divisions and workers, multi-directional communication and the freedom of the employees to take part in problem solving and decision-making in the organization. Rather than on the adherence to routine operations and bureaucratic lines, organic organizations put emphasis on employee freedom, the ability to adapt, the ability to be creative and the capacity to innovate. The focus is on the ability to adjust and the ability to initiate solutions to problems.

4. 3 Mechanistic organizations or firms Mechanistic organizations are quite different from organic organizations. They are more like bureaucratic establishments with clear structures, clear rules, definite processes and roles for the various members. Authority is centralized and vertical command is pronounced. They are characterized by extreme formality and any undertaking is always through authority. Like a machine, the mechanistic organizations are structured in such a way that each part of the organization does what it is supposed to do.

Emphasis is on efficiency aimed at increasing production for the organization. The best operational conditions for mechanistic organizations are stable, deterministic, defined, clear and predictable conditions. Little attention is normally paid to innovation given that employees are not encouraged to think beyond their job descriptions. Also, human needs within the organization tend to be ignored with too much focus put on effectiveness in production of goods or the provision of services and strict adherence to rules and standards.

Boredom is rampart in mechanistic organization s since workers do the same job repeatedly.

4. 4 What uncertainty means to organic organizations Environmental uncertainty can be a problem to organic organizations just like it is to mechanistic organizations. The advantageous perspective of organic organizations under uncertain environmental conditions lies in its ability to adjust. The flexible and loose nature of the organic organizations makes them very dynamic and any time there is a switch in the operational climate means that organic organizations can be able to evolve and fit into the new or changed conditions.

The less emphasis that is placed on employee position leads to motivation and the freedom given to the workers in an organic organization enables them to stretch their imagination thus coming up with more solutions to new problems that the organic organization may face. The organic organization under uncertain environmental conditions makes its members move from work to work within the organization as they search for the best solutions and this ensures that employees are not bored.

4. 5 What uncertainty means to mechanistic organizations

Given their rigid and routine nature, mechanistic organizations normally find it very hard to operate under uncertain environmental conditions. The setting in of uncertainty in the operational environment of mechanistic organizations always sends the operations of the organization into disarray and the organization can grind to a halt altogether. The tradition of keeping workers in just one routine job means that when a new problem sets in no one is able to deal with it. The keeping of workers in one job also obviously leads to extreme boredom and motivation is ever low.

The inability to get into a new job even for a short while means that the employees of mechanistic organizations cannot be innovative at all. Thus new or changed circumstances mean that these employees become redundant. Job losses, reduced production, confusion, frustration and bitterness are a common thing during uncertain times in mechanistic organizations or companies. In some cases it can lead to total closure of the firm due to the absence of the appropriate human resources to guide the mechanistic organization through the hard and uncertain times.

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