The two major distinctions that distinguish mechanistic and organic organizations come from their organizational structure.
Organic organizations tend towards centralization of power, whereas the more mechanistic ones are much more decentralized. Organizational structure is also a leading indicator to reveal whether or not a business is seriously structured towards its strategic goals. Here are the top three organizational structures of modern business.
The organizational structure is usually identified by the degree of centralization, the degree of rigid organization, the number of levels of management, the number of organizational functions, the number of formal rules and the roles and responsibilities of the various levels. Most industries tend towards a more centralized organization with a more rigid hierarchy and fewer levels of managers. They have little room for creativity because they must stick to the company’s formal rules.
On the other hand, learning organizations, such as colleges or universities, function more like mentoring or advisory groups rather than centralized administrative offices. A learning organization has a higher degree of autonomy, a lower number of managers, a higher degree of freedom, and the ability to adapt to changing external circumstances. There are often less formal rules associated with learning organizations. Because students are encouraged to become active participants in the learning process rather than viewing it as a passive experience, they tend to be significantly more flexible and creative.
In general, the more highly centralized and impersonal an organization is, the more rigid its organizational structures tend to be. In addition, highly bureaucratic organizations frequently lack an effective feedback system and internal check and balances. Categorizing organizations into either “organic” or “machine” based upon their organizational structure can be misleading, as both have important elements in common. Organic organizations tend to exhibit a higher rate of innovation relative to their machine counterparts, while machine-based organizations exhibit a higher rate of consistency.
High levels of motivation are one of the key characteristics of organically-organized structures.
As with traditional organizational design, the key goal of mechanistic and organic organizations is to provide workers with a high degree of autonomy, while maintaining certain levels of order and quality control. Manual tasks are eliminated and replaced by computer-based procedures and protocols. In effect, the work becomes more “service-oriented” and workers are freed up to perform work that is directly related to the task at hand.
Human resource practices and coaching.
Traditional organizations, particularly those typified by the traditional brick-and-mortar workplace, heavily encourage employee participation. Through the application of time-tested techniques, such as brainstorming, employee input is highly valued and can guide organizational design. In contrast, mechanistic and organic structures severely restrict or prohibit employee participation and development.
Technological expertise within an organization.
Human resource practices associated with traditional learning organizations place a heavy emphasis on educating workers on the latest technological possibilities. Because technology has developed so quickly and frequently, it is not uncommon for junior employees to be completely unaware of, let alone interested in, the inner workings of a specific technology. Mechanistic and organic structures do not promote this type of learning, as they operate under the assumption that workers possess the necessary skills and knowledge to perform any function.
The two organizational styles share many common characteristics, but differ in a number of important ways.
Organic organizations appear to be thriving as a result of their specialization and the high degree of autonomy provided. However, the rate of innovation and workforce performance is much lower than in traditional learning institutions. In mechanistic structures, the pace of technological change is often quite fast, but the number of employees performing specialized tasks is correspondingly low. Thus, while the organizational capital of mechanistic and formalization techniques appears to be developing at a rapid rate, the rate of its development and productivity is significantly lower.