Company Size and Organizational Structure
Organizational design can be defined narrowly as the strategic process of shaping the organization's structure and roles to create or optimize competitive capabilities in a given market. This definition underscores why it is important for companies to identify the factors of the organization that determine its ideal structure—most specifically the size, scope, and operational initiatives of the company.
Company size plays a particularly important role in determining an organization's ideal structure: the larger the company, the greater the need for increased complexity and divisions to achieve synergy. The organizational structure should be designed in ways that specifically optimize the effort and input compared to output. Larger companies with a wider range of operational initiatives require careful structural considerations to achieve this optimization.
Types of Organizational Structure
Companies may adopt one of six organizational structures based upon company size and diversity of scope of operations.
Ideal for smaller companies, the pre-bureaucratic structure deliberately lacks standardized tasks and strategic division of responsibility. Instead, this is an agile framework aimed at leveraging employees in any and all roles to optimize competitiveness.
A bureaucratic framework functions well in large corporations with relatively complex operational initiatives. This structure is rigid and mechanical, with strict subordination to ensure consistency across varying business units.
This structure is a combination of bureaucratic and pre-bureaucratic, where individual contribution and control are coupled with authority and structure. In this structure, consensus is the driving force behind decision making and authority. Post-bureaucratic structure is better suited to smaller or medium-sized organizations (such as nonprofits or community organizations) where the importance of the decisions made outweighs the importance of efficiency.
A functional structure focuses on developing highly efficient and specific divisions which perform specialized tasks. This structure works well for large organizations pursuing economies of scale, usually through production of a large quantity of homogeneous goods at the lowest possible cost and highest possible speed. The downside of this structure is that each division is generally autonomous, with limited communication across business functions.
A divisional structure is also a framework best leveraged by larger companies; instead of economies of scale, however, they are in pursuit of economies of scope. Economies of scope simply means a high variance in product or service. As a result, different divisions will handle different products or geographic locations/markets. For example, Disney may have a division for TV shows, a division for movies, a division for theme parks, and a division for merchandise.
A matrix structure is used by the largest companies with the highest level of complexity. This structure combines functional and divisional concepts to create a product-specific and division-specific organization. In the Disney example, the theme park division would also contain a functional structure within it (i.e., theme park accounting, theme park sales, theme park customer service, etc.).
Strategic Organizational Design
Structure becomes more difficult to change as companies evolve; for this reason, understanding which specific structure will function best within a given company environment is an important early step for the management team. Smaller companies function best as pre-bureaucratic or post-bureaucratic; the inherent adaptability and flexibility of the pre-bureaucratic structure is particularly effective for small companies aspiring to expand. Larger companies, on the other hand, achieve higher efficiency through functional, bureaucratic, divisional, and matrix structures (depending on the scale, scope, and complexity of operations).
McDonald's fast-food restaurants departmentalize varying elements of their operation to optimize efficiency. This structure is divisional, meaning each specific company operation is segmented (for example, operations, finance/accounting, marketing, etc.).