The concept of organizational design is very broad but covers a range of topics from manufacturing to healthcare. 

Organizations are made up of people working together in a structured manner under a common objective. This objective could be to create or preserve a material reality or to achieve some goal that lies beyond the immediate one. Organizational design gives emphasis on the idea of structure with all the different aspects that go into making an organizational structure and how they interact with one another.

Mechanistic and organic organizations have distinct characteristics. One of them is formalization. 

Formalization involves an approach towards an entity where its parts, functions, and interactions are explicitly stated, especially if the entity is large. In addition, formalization ensures that these parts, functions, and interactions can be understood by people outside of the organization.

Mechanistic and organic learning organizations differ on the other hand in the sense that they allow members to freely express themselves through their forms and functions.

Organic learning organizations facilitate the self-organization of knowledge through the free expression of ideas in the form of a group. Formalization in formal learning organizations usually involves a strict code of conduct enforced by an independent governing body. The ultimate aim of such an organization is not only quality but also a sharing of experience by all members.

Organic learning organizations differ from mechanistic structures in that the objective is not to ensure quality in the service but rather quality in the way that the service is offered. Such an organization may adopt the philosophy of the principle of self-sufficiency, whereby each individual is responsible for the proper execution of the organization’s mission. It is also worth noting that such organizations have common core principles that serve as guidelines to the internal functioning of the organization. Common core principles thus ensure consistency in the application of policies and practices irrespective of the size of the organization. Organizational design, therefore, seeks to build a stronger relationship between management and staff thereby building organizational capital.

silver round coins on brown wooden table
Photo by Darío Martínez-Batlle

Although both types of organization can be relatively highly mechanized, they differ in terms of costs involved. 

Organic learning structures are relatively low cost, while they may involve relatively high degree of infrastructural needs. Organic structures may also require a relatively high level of skill in order to ensure the successful implementation of the curriculum. While both organic and mechanistic structures facilitate the free sharing of knowledge amongst its members, the relative difference in costs associated with each organization serves as one of the major demarcations between the two types of structures.

Mechanistic organization is a relatively low-cost form of learning structure while it facilitates the self-organization of knowledge through a fairly rigid and predetermined curriculum. On the other hand organic organizations facilitate the free and spontaneous expression of ideas through a highly flexible and customizable curriculum. Organic learning structures allow the members to freely express their views irrespective of their professional background. However, the flexibility and customization of curricula are largely dependent upon the level of skill possessed by the faculty members. Thus, on an organic level the selection of the appropriate content for each particular subject matter and the overall direction of the curriculum can be highly personalized. On the other hand, on a mechanical level, the content required by the students for any subject matter can be fairly easily determined.

Organic learning structures are usually associated with diffuse decision-making processes. In an organic organizational design, decisions are made by the higher managers over the wide range of views regarding the strategic issues at stake. On the other hand, decisions are often made more rapidly and fairly automatically at the regional or centralized level. The level of integration between the different units of the organization into a centralized decision-making process is highly limited, whereas the level of freedom associated with decentralized decision-making is fairly unlimited.

Both mechanistic and organic structures have important advantages. 

Organic learning involves a relatively high degree of skill, flexibility and creativity but the overall costs associated with the process are considerably higher than that of mechanistic decision making. However, irrespective of the type of structure selected, organizations have to make certain that they make the right choices so that they can create a highly productive and cost effective organization.

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