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Distinction Between Organization Design and Structure - Critical Thinking Example

3 pages
634 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Critical thinking
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When people hear about the term organization design, what comes to mind are things like the color of the office, its layout, and basically, the physical appearance of the organizations working place. However, the concept of organization design goes beyond these physical traits. It refers to the process used by a firm to integrate the employees, information, and technology together in a right mix so that they can achieve specific objectives (Kleinbaum et al. 2013). The design can, therefore, be said to be the management choices of the organization that forms its culture. Organization structure, on the other hand, is a concept rarely confused by people as is the case of organization design. The structure shows the formal lines of authority and power in the firm. In this regard, it encompasses on the various job positions, their titles and duties in the business and the chain of command followed by the people holding the different positions.

The Relationship between Organization Design and Structure

In the book Handbook of Organizations, March (2013) states that the two concepts may be thought to be the same because they are intertwined. In fact, design and structure are usually used in the same sentence. This can be misleading as they have different definitions. However, the two have a close relationship in which one concept depends on the other concepts existence. Understanding the relationship between the design and structure is essential for determining the future plans of the organization.

The organization design as defined earlier forms the culture in the firm. It is, therefore, the bigger picture between the two concepts. The design adopted will determine how the organization carries out business both internally and externally. Evidently, the culture will not stand without the structures support. The culture in a company will be seen from the beams brought about by its structure.

Factors Affecting the Relationship between Design and Structure

The relationship between design and structure is determined by several factors, both internal and external. Organization size is the first determinant. Large organizations are characterized by a high number of employees and multiple levels of formal authority. By design, such firms allow less employee input in decision-making. An organization usually has five stages of life including introduction, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Each stage has different effects on the organizations design and structure. One of the external factors that affect this relationship is the environment which broadly consists of elements such as political, economic, sociocultural, and competitive forces. Any change in the mentioned external forces may affect an organizations design or structure (Kleinbaum et al. 2013).

The impact of Culture and Structure on an Organizations Future

Businesses are always continually changing with time. The change affects the various roles, appearance, and formalities in the organization. If the firm has a well laid out design and structure, it is much easier for the decision-makers to make the right choices as the changes occur in the business. Understanding the two helps the executives to do prior planning.

In the article titled An Efficient Frontier in Organization Design, Csaszar, (2013) concludes that communicational flow aspect of the structure is so crucial in the organization that should change occur, the employees should be carefully oriented towards the new way of doing things. While this may take time to achieve, with a right structure in place, the culture adapts positively and quickly. How well the relationship between culture and structure is understood determines how effective transitions are managed in the organization.



Csaszar, F. A. (2013). An efficient frontier in organization design: Organizational structure as a determinant of exploration and exploitation. Organization Science, 24(4), 1083-1101.

Kleinbaum, A. M., Stuart, T. E., & Tushman, M. L. (2013). Discretion within constraint: Homophily and structure in a formal organization. Organization Science, 24(5), 1316-1336.

March, J. G. (Ed.). (2013). Handbook of Organizations (RLE: Organizations) (Vol. 20). Routledge.


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