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The structure of an organization has a significant impact on employee behavior and performance. Organizational structure as a determinant of organizational performance: uncovering essential aspects of organic and mechanistic structure. On the other hand, the organizational structure provides an overview of the hierarchy of levels, roles and responsibilities, authorities, communication channels, etc. A mechanistic organizational structure has a number of bureaucratic features, e.g. do, have clearly defined professional roles and clearly defined communication channels. These features ensure high performance in demanding processes and procedures. In addition, it reduces flexibility and learning opportunities. The success of the mechanistic structure largely depends on the external environment as well as its effectiveness in increasing the efficiency of the organization.
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Understanding the definition of organizational structure is extremely important as it affects both employee behavior and organizational performance (Organizational Structure as a Determinant of Organizational Performance: Uncovering the Basic Aspects of Organic and Mechanistic Structure). Organizational structure is a method that consists of the responsibilities and powers delegated to members and the way work is conducted among them. (Nahm et al., 2003). This also includes hierarchical levels, the centralization of power and horizontal integration. However, organizational structure is a multi-dimensional construct that illustrates division of labor (roles or responsibilities, including specification), departmental structuring, centralization, complexity, communication or coordination mechanisms, including standardization, formalization, and flexibility (How does organizational structure affect performance? by Learning and Innovation in Austria and China). Two main types of organizational structures can be distinguished: mechanistic and organic. The next section provides an overview of the mechanistic organizational structure while discussing its nature and features.
The mechanistic structure is inherently hierarchical and bureaucratic. Its structure, processes and roles are viewed as a machine in which each part of the organization does what it is designed to do. Three main characteristics can be distinguished. Namely, a highly centralized authority, formalized procedures and practices, and specialized functions (Businessdictionary.com). The mechanistic structure thus has a clear, well-defined, centralized, vertical hierarchy of command, authority, and control. Efficiency and predictability are achieved through specialization, standardization, and formalization. Fixed tasks, technologies and processes are the result of such a mechanical organizational structure. The mechanistic structure aims to achieve efficiency through tight control (Enotes/Studymaster).
The features of the mechanistic organizational structure are listed below:
This organizational structure works best when the environment is relatively stable.
Low task differentiation
The tasks will not be very varied, as each sub-task is relatively stable and easy to complete.
Low level of integration, e.g. departments and functional areas
Due to the task stability, the integration of departments and functional areas will be low, since tasks remain relatively stable and functional areas are not highly interdependent.
Centralized Decision Making
When the environment is stable, there is no need to make complicated decisions involving people at lower levels. Therefore, decision-making is centralized at the top of the organization.
Standardization and formalization
When tasks are stable, they should be standardized and formalized to allow operations to run smoothly and without disruption.
Mechanistic organizations prefer a formalized structure for two main reasons. It reduces organizational volatility and increases its predictability rather than ambiguity (Mintzberg, 1979). The highly formalized mechanistic structure requires almost all processes and procedures to be administratively approved. On the other hand, it considers processes and procedures that go beyond these approved protocols as deviations to be controlled, which means that decision-making in all transactions should be based on established procedures, rules, regulations or instructions (enotes/study manager).
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The mechanistic structure allows for more predictable employee behavior while increasing standardization in the organization. For example, an employee is familiar with processing customer returns or accepting credit card payments. Formalization enables organizations to improve their performance (Hahn, 2007). On the other hand, it also limits the possibilities for innovation and new ideas, since variations are neither allowed nor encouraged. As a result, the mechanistic structure does not support and quickly adapt to changes in the external environment. Therefore, the mechanistic type of organizational structure is best suited for large organizations operating in more stable environments, where it helps maximize organizational efficiency while minimizing costs through formalization and centralized decision-making (Carpenter et al., 1969). Classic management theories regard the organization as a "machine" (Fayol, 1949; Taylor, 1911). Classical theories emphasize the need for bureaucracy in organization, resulting in a lack of room for creativity and innovation. Classic management theories therefore promote a mechanistic organizational structure (Organizational Structure as a Determinant of Organizational Performance: Discovering Essential Aspects of Organic and Mechanistic Structure).
However, organizations operating in a rapidly changing environment require frequent changes in their processes and procedures, as well as changes in the external environment. In addition, measures appropriate to the situation are required to increase the ability to adapt to the environment. The formula and authority of mechanistic structures, therefore, do not encourage deviation from specific processes and procedures. Therefore, the mechanistic type of organizational structure is not effective for organizations operating in a dynamic environment.
Mechanistic organizations are shown to increase efficiency when tasks and technologies are relatively stable. This means that stable environments and technologies allow for clear definition and differentiation of work. The scientific method should be used to separate work processes in order to define precise tasks, assign tasks to workers, and monitor their performance (Fayol, 1949; Taylor, 1911). The professional activities in a mechanistic organization are divided into specific tasks. A specialized position is created by the assignment of one or more specific tasks that require a well-defined set of skills, methods and work processes. In addition, each professional function is assigned specific tasks or powers. Supervisors and subordinates are expected to strictly carry out assigned tasks according to strict procedures, while only a few senior managers monitor their performance. (Organizational structure as a determinant of organizational performance: uncovering fundamental aspects of organic and mechanistic structure). Managers act as planners and supervisors in a mechanistic organization. This results in high efficiency with clear instructions on how to perform specific tasks. On the other hand, it offers fewer opportunities for innovation. Therefore, innovation is limited to achieving efficiency in processes. However, it may make more sense to improve performance in a stable environment than to rely on innovative ideas. For example: “For example, few customers would wish for a McDonald's employee to show creativity when preparing a hamburger. Instead, when the worker follows established procedures and customers can have confidence that every hamburger they buy will taste the same, the repeatability and stability of the process required to make a hamburger is more efficient” (Enotes/Study Master).
In contrast, the rapidly changing outdoor environment requires innovative ideas to meet the needs of the outdoor environment. In addition, greater flexibility of operations and processes is required to meet the demands of the external environment. Employees would be given more flexibility in dealing with customers, which would mean that lower-level employees would have some leeway to make specific decisions to address the situation and resolve issues. Therefore, the mechanistic structure is less effective for organizations working under difficult conditions.
The centralized decision-making in mechanistic organizations allows a small number of executives to be actively involved in decision-making. Clear communication channels allow formal communication or information flow from top to bottom or vice versa. "Classical theorists" hold that centralized decision-making increases organizational efficiency and definitely leads to better organizational performance" (Gulick and Urwick, 1937; Weber, 1947). Classical theorists focused more on hierarchical power and paid less or no attention to the level of employee participation in decision-making. Employee participation in decision-making is an absolutely vital aspect of any organizational structure and directly impacts organizational performance (Carter & Cullen, 1984; Khakani et al., 2012). In addition, centralized decision-making leads to more efficient functioning of all bureaucratic structures (Goodsell, 1985). The scientific management of organizations is only possible when decision-making is limited to a few employees (senior management) in the organization, as in Taylor's (1911) concept (Mansoor, Aslam (2012).
However, centralized decision-making is better suited to stable and large organizations. Therefore, in highly dynamic external environments, organizations must act quickly to survive in the environment in which they operate. Therefore, some decision-making authority is required to decentralize and empower employees at lower levels. This helps them respond to rapid changes in the external environment. It is clear that a mechanistic type of structure will not adequately support organizations in performing in challenging external environments. Therefore, the degree of formalization in an organization depends on the technology, size and tradition of the organization (Robbins 1990, Burton and Obel, 1998 (Mansoor, Aslam (2012)).
In a mechanistic structure, a clear distance between employees and management reduces the ability of subordinates to bring new ideas. Furthermore, according to Douglas McGregor's Theory X, those who bring about change are relatable. Therefore, resistance to change is high and innovation is not encouraged as much in organizations with a mechanistic organizational hierarchy. (Armstrong, 2008). But in today's demanding and dynamic external environment, companies face intense competition. Therefore, organizations with a mechanistic structure face various difficulties in implementing rapid changes due to the highly formalized nature of the hierarchy itself. However, learning is a key factor in the development of an organization. The diagram below shows the steps involved in learning in a loop.
Mechanistic organizations can use this model to improve the efficiency of their processes. The single-loop model focuses on analyzing actions and feedback to identify the gap between where we are and where we should be. Therefore, changes are introduced as actions rather than control variables (creating an advantage). Kolb's (1984) classic interpretation of learning succinctly describes the process of "one-loop learning" and is considered a simplified version of the scientific method (Kolb 1984, Armstrong 2008).
As discussed above, learning and implementing change requires flexibility within systems and processes. The rigid structure of mechanistic organizations does not facilitate the comfortable implementation of change. A clearly defined structure requires approval of all changes and formal communication within the organization. Significant effort and time is required in mechanistic structures to communicate and formalize all necessary changes, and the dynamic external environment requires rapid changes. Therefore, companies face various challenges in adapting to the external environment. In addition, implementing the change requires changing tasks or roles, which employees object to because their knowledge is more specific to the task or task complex. On the other hand, the change may require training and significant adaptation time, affecting the efficiency of the processes. In addition, the bureaucracy of mechanistic structures makes it difficult to implement change. Overall, this limits the ability for lower-level employees to participate in decisions about change. The pronounced distance between the hierarchy levels of the organization and the lines of communication reduces awareness of such changes. Therefore, employees are afraid of change and resist innovations.
When deciding on the level of formalization and specialization in the mechanistic structure, it is extremely important to consider the pace of change in technology and the external environment. When all these factors are taken into account, one can conclude that the mechanistic structure leaves less room for rapid changes. Therefore, it is better suited for large organizations operating in relatively stable environments. Furthermore, the type of organizational structure cannot be precisely defined as good or bad as it depends on the internal and external environment of the company. An organizational structure that is appropriate for one industry will inevitably be appropriate for another industry due to many external factors such as competition and the influence of technology.
The mechanistic structure is inherently highly formalized and specialized with well-defined procedures, processes, and roles. Centralized decision-making is one of the key features of a mechanistic structure. Managers are involved in decision-making while their subordinates are expected to perform one or more specific tasks within the department. Therefore, the mechanistic structure offers fewer opportunities for learning. However, the flexibility of the structure is decisive for learning support. When dealing with a changing and dynamic environment, learning and innovation are imperative. The mechanistic structure does not provide enough flexibility to change or modify decision-making depending on the situation. Therefore, for an organization operating in a more stable environment, a mechanistic structure is extremely effective. These features of mechanistic structures reduce learning opportunities. Changing the level of mechanistic functions will help the company to some extent to increase learning opportunities.
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A mechanistic organization is characterized by a relatively high degree of job specialization, rigid departmentalization, many layers of management (particularly middle management), narrow spans of control, centralized decision-making, and a long chain of command.What is an example of a mechanistic organizational structure? ›
General Motors is a good example of an organization using the mechanistic model. Why do they use that? For one, they're very large, and when that many people and functions are involved, order is needed. But they're also in a stable, if not somewhat simple, environment.What is mechanistic structure best for? ›
As already stated, a mechanistic structure centralizes the decision-making process. Its main advantages include: Well-defined roles, tasks, and responsibilities. High level of specialization that enhances employee productivity.What is mechanistic approach? ›
In the mechanistic approach, one considers a series of transformations whose form is derived from experiments with simple stimulus configurations. In the computational approach, the form of the transformation is derived from consideration of the problem color vision is trying to solve.What is the difference between functional and mechanistic? ›
Functional explanations provide explanatory power by focusing on functions or goals of phenomena, whereas mechanistic explanations provide explanatory power by appealing to processes, parts and interactions between parts as constituting phenomena.What is functional vs mechanistic? ›
Here we consider mechanistic explanations, which explain by appeal to parts or processes, and functional explanations, which explain by appeal to functions or goals.What is a mechanistic structure a level business? ›
A mechanistic organisational structure is one which is largely formal. It is associated with centralised decision-making, tall hierarchies, narrow spans of control, formal communication and greater resistance to change.What is a mechanistic organization quizlet? ›
Mechanistic organizations are typified by a structure that relies on high levels of formalization, a rigid and hierarchical chain of command, high degrees of work specialization, centralization of decision making, and narrow spans of control.What mechanistic theory of organization is also known as? ›
Answer: Mechanistic Structure can also be known as a bureaucratic structure.How does mechanistic structure affect change? ›
Mechanistic organizations are often rigid and resist change, making them unsuitable for being innovative and taking quick action. These forms have the downside of inhibiting entrepreneurial action and discouraging the use of individual initiative on the part of employees.
Mechanistic modeling aims at predicting systems behavior and outputs describing the interactions between system-forming elements.Is McDonald's a mechanistic organization? ›
Generally, McDonald's has been successful in achieving international expansion by utilizing a mechanistic structure and a globalization strategy. This has led to the company's rapid growth over the past several decades.What is an example of mechanistic theory? ›
For instance, the functioning of a car engine, which involves various parts working together, or the dynamics of a sports team, where individual roles and interactions lead to collective performance, can be understood using the mechanistic theory.What is an example of a mechanistic model? ›
An example of a mechanistic model is firing an artillery shell to hit a target. The arc that a shell takes after firing follows a very well understood curve called a parabola that describes the trajectory of any non-self-propelled airborne object.Why mechanistic organization is better? ›
The main advantage of a mechanistic structure is its efficiency. Therefore, in organizations that are trying to maximize efficiency and minimize costs, mechanistic structures provide advantages.What are the different types of mechanistic steps? ›
Consider the following four types of mechanistic steps: nucleophilic attack, loss of leaving group, rearrangement (by alkyl or hydride shift), and proton transfer.What is the mechanistic world view? ›
In Descartes' mechanistic conception of the world, all of nature works according to mechanical laws, and everything in the material world can be explained in terms of the arrangement and movements of its parts.What is mechanistic behavior? ›
Its explanations of human behavior are based on the model or metaphor of a machine and invoke mechanical causality, reducing complex psychological phenomena to simpler physical phenomena. Also called mechanistic approach.Is Walmart a mechanistic or organic organization? ›
These companies sell a basic product and keep prices low. Wal-Mart employs this strategy. A mechanistic strategy allows for tight control, extensive work specialization, high formalization and centralization, and so it best fits this strategy.What is an example of structure in business? ›
The four main forms of business structures in the United States include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, and corporation.
Mechanistic organizations characteristics. cross-functional teams, cross-hierarchical teams, free flow of information, decentralization, low formalization.Which of the following is true about mechanistic organizational structure? ›
Answer and Explanation: The answer is C. It is characterized by a precise division of labor. Mechanistic organizations are formal in design and each division operates as an appendage of the larger machine (organization).Is Amazon a mechanistic organization? ›
Overall, Amazon exhibits both mechanistic and organic organizational characteristics. Its hierarchical structure, centralized decision-making, and focus on efficiency reflect its mechanistic roots. However, its flat organizational structure, culture of innovation, and focus on collaboration reflect its organic nature.What of the following best describes mechanistic and organic organizations? ›
What of the following best describes mechanistic and organic organizations? Mechanistic organization is one that is bureaucratic in nature and tends to have more centralized authority and Organic organization will involve more teamwork and collaboration.What are the disadvantages of mechanistic Organisation? ›
Mechanistic Organizational Structure Disadvantages
Innovation has to wait on red tape. Rigid control and job specialization mean employees aren't free to be creative problem-solvers. As mere cogs, employees' morale may be impacted. Finally, grouping employees by function contributes to departmental isolation.
Mechanistic organization is characterized by the narrow span of control with many coating of management.What do mechanistic structures limit? ›
Mechanistic structures limit individual autonomy and self determination which will likely lead to lower levels of intrinsic motivation on the job. In a matrix structure, product managers have control and say over product related matters, while department managers have authority over matters related to company policy.What is an example of mechanistic company? ›
General Motors is a good example of an organization using the mechanistic model. Why do they use that? For one, they're very large, and when that many people and functions are involved, order is needed. But they're also in a stable, if not somewhat simple, environment.Is Starbucks mechanistic or organic? ›
Starbucks have succeeded with the implementation of this structure. High-quality product development, efficient production, and excellent customer service is the result of employing mechanistic organizational structure.Is Tesla a mechanistic organization? ›
Tesla Organizational structure is well-defined as mechanistic model. A structure characterized by extensive departmentalization, high formalization, a limited information network, and centralization (Robbins 449).
Understanding a mechanistic organizational structure
The mechanistic organizational structure describes any company with divisions between departments, centralized authority, and specialized but independent roles.
Mechanistic models are based on the fundamental laws of natural sciences, including physical and biochemical principles. Less experimental data is needed to calibrate the model and determine unknown model parameters, such as adsorption coefficients, diffusivity, or material properties.What is an example sentence for mechanistic? ›
The new and vastly improving mechanistic insights into the system helped to overcome the limitations inherent to empirical knowledge. However, our mechanistic aspiration goes beyond mapping out such practices and contingencies.Is Walmart a mechanistic organization? ›
These companies sell a basic product and keep prices low. Wal-Mart employs this strategy. A mechanistic strategy allows for tight control, extensive work specialization, high formalization and centralization, and so it best fits this strategy.Is Coca Cola mechanistic or organic? ›
The Coca-Cola Companys structure is a hybrid of both mechanistic and organic models.How is Apple organizational structure? ›
Apple uses a company structure that is commonly known as “functional organization”. This means that the company has been organized around areas of expertise, rather than individual products. The products themselves are then worked on by individuals from across the different areas of expertise.Is Samsung a mechanistic or organic organization? ›
Samsung Electronics is a type of mechanistic organizational structure because it has rigid hierarchical relationships.What is mechanistic theory of organization also known as? ›
Answer: Mechanistic Structure can also be known as a bureaucratic structure.Is Microsoft mechanistic or organic? ›
Microsoft is familiar to approximately every computer user in today's world. The company has been flourishing through maintaining a great leadership in the organization. For its management using flexible leadership the company is an organic organization.Is Google organic or mechanistic? ›
The rigid model of the mechanistic approach can stifle creativity and innovation. This is why most technology companies such as Google, take an organic approach. Even the organic model has problems, in which too many ideas as to how to complete a task can create pandemonium and inefficiency.
Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches.