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Organizational Design: Mechanistic vs Organic Organization

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How does a manager choose among organizational design alternatives? How does he, for example, decide how precisely to define duties and roles? Organization design tries to identify the organizational structures and processes that appropriately “fit” the type of people in the organization and the type of task the organization faces. Organizational design determines what the structures and processes of an organization will be. By means of contrast, the mechanistic and organic models of organizational design can be thought of as occupying two ends of a hypothetical spectrum.

Mechanistic organizational units are the traditional pyramidal pattern of organizing. In a mechanistic organizational unit, roles and procedures are precisely defined. Communication is channelized, and time spans and goal orientations are similar within the unit. (Michael). The objective is to work toward machine-like efficiency. The mechanistic form is efficient and predictable. For people with a low tolerance for ambiguity, it provides a stable and secure work setting. Under what conditions is this pattern of organization appropriate? When the organizational unit is performing a task that is stable, well-defined, and likely to be programmable, or when members of the organization prefer well-defined situations, feel more secure when the day has a routine to it, and tend to want others to supply direction, the mechanistic pattern is applicable. (Michael) For instance, few customers would want a McDonald’s employee to use creativity in preparing their hamburger. Instead, the repetitiveness and stability of the procedures needed to cook a hamburger are more efficient when the employee follows established procedures and customers can trust that each hamburger they purchase will taste the same. However, the mechanistic form is less flexible: once a direction and procedures have been set, it is hard to change them.

In contrast to mechanistic units, organic organizational units are based on a more biological metaphor for constructing social organizations. The objective in designing an organic unit is to leave the system maximally open to the environment in order to make the most of new opportunities. An organic form is useful in the face of an uncertain task or one that is not well enough understood to be programmed. The organic form is also appropriate for people who like the disorder of an ambiguous setting, for people who prefer variety, change, and adventure and who grow restless when they fall into the same routine day after day. A prime example for an organic company is Google. Fortune magazine has ranked Google number one of the 100 best companies to work for in 2007. Google’s headquarter, the “Googleplex”, resembles a playground for employees including a corporate recreation center. Its organization structure stresses innovative teamwork, flat hierarchies and decentralization in the sense that teams have the necessary autonomy to make decisions for themselves without interruption from middle management. (Sweid) However, the organic form is often waste of resources. Not having precisely defined authority, control, and information hierarchies, time can be wasted in search activities that duplicate the efforts of other members. Furthermore, the stress of uncertainty and the continual threat of power struggles can be exhausting.

Organizational design choices are tradeoffs between good fit to the task environment and people characteristics, to monetary and human costs, and to short-term and long-term consequences. Such a design is never perfect or complete. Organizational design seeks to build knowledge about and provide guidelines for- designing more efficient and more human organizations.


Michael,B.(1974) An introduction of organizational design.California Management Review .Retrieved from:






About caseyjiang

Hi everyone! Im in Business Administration ENTR programe.This is my third year first semester.

3 responses »

  1. chrisjerickchua

    Hi Casey,

    I personally believe that having an organic structure is better than mechanistic structure in an organization. This is because in an organic structure, there is a much verbal communication between employees and they usually work together to coordinate tasks. Having the opportunity to work together would be more fun and engaging rather than working alone. It also speeds up the whole process by being able to help each other in getting the job done. Also, I think that an organic structure exhibits a decentralized organization where lower-level management can have a say in the decision-making process. I totally agree with you that the organizational design would determine the organization’s structure. I’m sure that there are also benefits to a mechanistic structure, but I just think that the advantages of an organic one overshadow the mechanistic one. Which one do you prefer? A great post!


    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for sharing your idea! Actually I prefer organic structure too. Organic organization is more diverse and dynamic, it is suitable for the development of young people.As we know, the world is changing rapidly,organic structure can make us adapt to the changing society.And I agree that communication in an organic organization can create a fun and effective working environment.Although personally i like organic structure, an organization needs to find an appropriate structure and evaluate its benefit for their own organizations.

  2. Both mechanistic and organic model have positive and negative effects to organizations. Mechanistic model is more organized and bureaucratic; employers can manage their employees easier. But it will lead to inefficient decision making and lost opportunities if the firm is operating in a more dynamic environment. Also, it can reduce employee motivation, innovation, and job satisfaction. In my viewpoint, it is hard to define which structure is better, but understand the organization and find a more suitable structure, or combine these two structures could be the best option.


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