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Organization Design Theory and Structure Concept

A lot of literature focuses on the importance of the formalization of the organizational structure. The informal structure has also been discussed, in relation to the informal structure. The natural system school of thought regarding organizational design questioned the importance of the highly formalized structures in the formal organizations, although they did not deny the existence of such structures. The proponents of the natural system school of thought particularly raised issues with the impact of the highly formalized structures on the behavior of participants.

Formal structures ideas were embedded in the rational system school of thought regarding organizational design, where there were rules and procedures affected, to a large extent, the behaviors of the members of organizations. Formal structures are associated with predictable behavior of individual, which has been standardized and regulated by rules and regulations. They are effective with large organizations which find it hard to cope with many people and processes. The informal structure was created by a situation where each member brought in their individual personality, which in turn interacted with the other members’ personalities.

Whereas the formal structure brought in norms, procedures and certain rules, it coexisted with the informal structure brought in as described in the previous

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statement. If the formal structure was not properly contained, it could result to an organizational failure by being pushed to a marginal role and becoming overwhelmed in case the participants were powerfully affected by the informal structure. Open systems theories brought forward the idea of simple rational, organic natural and complex natural systems.

It was possible to achieve adjustments in these systems because of the loosely coupled nature of the organizational parts. In consideration to the level of control in these systems, there existed a range of “relatively tight to an almost complete lack of control” as far as the degree of authority was concerned. Low moral or managerial standards were not the obvious description for these organizations with loosely coupled organizational parts. Considering the importance of organizational control as far as organizational success is concerned, there were implications arising from the lack of control.

Sometimes there were no increased benefits to the organization and members as a result of decisions and actions made at times. Morphostasis, negentropy, self-maintenance and morphogenesis were characteristics of the open systems approach; where the organization was able to retain the interdependent parts of it and also maintain itself and at the same time take care of its interaction with the environment through self-maintenance, the ability of the organization to obtain energy from the environment (negentropy) while retaining its internal energy (entropy), and accomplish other purposes as well.

Sometimes organizations were in danger if they brought in inputs that could not enable (by being inadequate or otherwise) improve their structures and routines, repair breakdowns and restore their energy; and this was considered as negative entropy. The inputs were considered simply more complex than their outputs. Morphostasis and morphogenesis were concepts posited in the open systems theories, and which were used to describe complexity of organizations.

In this respect, there were processes that were liable to bringing change in the organizations (morphogenesis), while some were liable for maintaining the state, structure or form of the system (Morphostasis). Differentiation, learning and growth among other factors, consisted of the potential to bring change in the organization (Triplett, 2007). This was an important view because organizations are learning to interact more and better with their environment as they become more and more complex.

Another aspect or characteristic of the open system was hierarchy, which gave the view of larger systems within an organization, which in turn had subsystems in them. This was hierarchy in the form of clustering. The loose coupling between complex systems would be explained by hierarchy. The system components were said to have lesser tight and less-dense connections and interdependencies than those existing within each of the systems components.

The subunits within the unit (one system component) were able to change whenever there was change in the environment because of the tight and dense structure within them. This change would occur even with “minimal supervision from the organizational head” (Triplett, 2007). Sometimes the overall objectives of the organization would not be achieved by the subunits because of this semiautonomous nature. Dysfunctional behavior could be avoided by considering the individual’s self interest with that of the organization.

An attempt to understand the way organizational goals may be achieved, as well as reduced follower frustration achieved and how poor leader-follower relationships could be avoided, has been made. Of concern is that these situations can be avoided by having organizational goals that were consistent to the follower personality. This arose as a result of interest of consideration of the research that focused on the relationship between the organization’s structural design and the followers’ personality (Argyris, 1987; cited in Triplett, 2007).

Argyris (1987; cited in Triplett, 2007) stuck to the rational process of analysis with the consideration that organizational structures mirrored the already developed objectives which organizations were to achieve. He was of the view that better results would be achieved if organizations were formulated with the personality of the followers in mind, so as to have the different followers with diverse personality fit in the accomplishment of the desired organizational goals.

A healthy personality would be achieved by having an ‘endless challenge’ that would not be achieved by having tasks refined such as to an extent that they required relatively few human skills. The refinement would result to focusing on only “a few shallow superficial abilities” and would hinder self-actualization, and the two formed the characteristics of the ‘endless challenge’ (Argyris, 1987; cited in Triplett, 2007). In this respect, research focused on the finding of the most efficient manner to carry out tasks or sets of them, and this was described as task specialization.

In order to achieve efficiency for output and satisfy the followers, it was important to consider how the follower responded to the tasks’ design. In order to achieve a control over the tasks in an attempt to have them achieve a common goal and purpose, hierarchical structures was focused upon after the tasks were designed. Empowering the leaders to realize motivation among the members of the organization was achieved by assigning to them tools and authority.

However, this was criticized by Argyris, who though that an individuals in the organization would be rendered powerless because they would not be in a position to control the information that would predict their future (hence shortening their time perspective), as well as having little or no control over their working environments. Further, Argyris criticized the span of control method over employees because of its ability to introduce a working environment that required “immature rather than mature participants” because of introduction of passive, submissive and dependent structures in the workplace.

The link between the degree of commitment of the management to job satisfaction and program implementation has been focused upon (Triplett, 2007). Job satisfaction increased when management commitment went up in degree. The importance of linking followers’ stated goals and implied managerial goals was important as conflict would make the followers to “give up on goal setting and follow through” (Triplett, 2007). The functions of the behavior rather than the origin of the behavior were explained in the functional analysis, and this was put forward in the natural system school of thought.

Another thought put forward is that the behavior was needed for survival of the systems and would be accepted for the balancing of the system. Relationships, feedback and time are very crucial aspects of systems that have been discussed, and the knowledge on how they can be utilized to facilitate individuals to interact better with them, is very necessary. Where the organization seeks to change or bring in various interventions, aspects of multifinality and equifinality are important considerations (Triplett, 2007).

The idea that the same results can be achieved with “any number of change efforts” is captured in the aspect of equifinality, while the fact that a number of results may arise from a given effort change is captured in the aspect of multifinality (Triplett, 2007). The results could be planned or not. “Models of potential effects” can be moved over time frames that have been extended, simply because there is a linkage between multifinality and equifinality aspects and time, and hence time is a very important aspect. A certain energy or stimulus source will have impacts that will be seen or understood over a time frame.

There is need of care while considering time owing to the complexity nature of systems. The fact that change occurs in a given system helps us to know whether positive or negative results for the process exist. The nature of the outputs and inputs will not influence this determination, and without change, we cannot judge the process in this manner. Change and stability must be balanced through negative and positive feedback, since negative feedback will not incur any change, while positive one will incur some change (Triplett, 2007).

The system may go to a state of decay or loose control if both forms are not present in the system. While entropy is assisted by positive feedback, it will be resisted by the negative feedback. Relationships in a system are also important to study, because they have helped to exit from the traditional perspective of breaking down the entities and seeking to rejoin them so as to understand them, to a perspective where they are understood by discovering and learning the patterns in them.

The idea of external factors (simple and complex) in affecting the organizational structure has been discussed (Triplett, 2007), with the view that they were to be considered in the organizational design, in addition to other factors (job at hand, characteristics of the individuals in the organization, and the coordination of subunits). The aforementioned author was of the opinion that such organizational tools as job descriptions and organizational charts were necessary to communicating the structure to employees but was inadequate and should be used together with other relevant tools.

Structural design consisted of integration and differentiation. The former features and could help us understand how departments in an organization have differences in terms of managements and functions, while the latter can help us to explore how the departments are collaborated. It can be considered that there is information with any department as relates to certain products or services. The amount of certainty of this information determined the “differentiation among these departments” (Triplett, 2007).

Thus the degree of the two aforementioned factors was influenced by the external environment of the organization. There are steps that were posited in order to aid the development of good organizational structure. The concepts on the integration and differentiation would form the basis of having the organizational tasks organized into departments in the first step, where the designer must judge whether to group a particular unit on the basis of integration or differentiation or otherwise, by considering the degree of integration and differentiation in it.

Integrative devices would then be designed in the second step. The third step focused mainly on the incorporation of motivation into the design process, where mechanisms for feedback and reward were incorporated to enhance collaboration into the both level (organization-wide and unit). This step therefore focused mainly on the structures of the units. The tasks would be controlled by rules and regulations which were then also designed and implemented.

Conflict resolution was the basis for incorporation of the peoples’ characteristics into the process, as the final step. Resolution of conflict was a requirement for those who were to act as integrators between the units. Another consideration was whether mechanisms of operation made members of the organization to see conflicts as integrative or judge them on a win-lose perspective, or that the mechanisms actually induced unnecessary conflicts. However, the ability of the mechanisms of operation to solve conflicts should be the sole target for designing such systems.

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