Patterns in Organizational Design


Thinking Patterns, or logic bubbles, is one of the key concepts of breakthrough thinking. It is not easy to explicate thinking patterns in day-to-day thinking neither in scientific disciplines. That is why we will attention to this phenomena in some next blog posts, for example, psychology research, education, free press, 24/7 schemes and “daily thinking”.

We will begin to identify some thinking patterns in organizational design. What is mainstream thinking when designing organizational arrangements? What are the hidden and unconscious assumptions people rigging organizations? Of course, not always and not by every company.

Notwithstanding that, it can be stated that the dominant ideas about how to set-up an enterprise are these:

  • The bigger the better. It is thought that centralization and scale will deliver efficiency advantages. However, the costs of (mis-)coordination are very often underestimated, let alone the power mechanisms that are evoked.
  • Give me more hands. Whenever a problem, an automatic reaction in organisations is to expand the workforce. However, lack of coordination or technical defects cannot be solved by “more hands”, it may even make the situation worse.
  • The grouping of individuals in units is the focus of organizational developers. It is assumed that the dominant choices are to be made around functions, skills, products, and markets. But it can be imagined that not grouping but the coordination between employees is made the focus of the design of a company.
  • The dominant coordination mechanism to be applied is increasingly “Direct Supervision” and “Standardization of Output”. It satisfies a need to be “in control”. However, Mintzberg showed us  that “Standardization of Norms”, and “Mutual Adjustment”, how soft those concepts also are, could be most effective.
  • The availability of efficient software packets determines organizational behaviour. The availability of cheap software to support the organizational processes defines how the organization will be structured, how the processes are carried out and even will determine the organization’s culture. The software is leading the design. Because many software programs were designed for an industrial environment -mass production, we should not be surprised that in research and service organizations there are serious frictions between the execution of tasks at hand and the supporting systems.
  • Leadership is important, or even strong leadership is important. In essence, the dominant idea is that people need guidance and are unable to lead themselves. And also that they need leaders to coordinate with others. Leading professionals? Do not do it!
  • Private owned organizations work better. Privatization of public services has been the motto for many years. In many cases, the opposite effect was achieved of what was intended. Many railway enterprises are not able to run trains smoothly because they developed a “management culture”, lacking essential technical knowledge to diagnosis problems and handle outsourced maintenance tasks.
  • Meetings are important. It is assumed that meetings are important to get each other informed, to solve problems or as a mechanism of feedback. But in many cases, it is an organizational ritual, satisfying the need of a manager to be important and to have a role. Without much exaggeration it can be said that structured thinking occurs rarely in meetings.

Go here to read more about patterns in organizations. Or read about patterns in general: Logic Bubblegum and Mental Inertia

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