Discussion Post

“Organizational structure defines how job tasks are formally divided, grouped, and coordinated.” (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 246) There are seven key factors which influence organizational structure:

Work Specialization: The division of activities into small, distinct, specialized tasks. The assembly line is an ideal example of work specialization, where a worker performs a specialized and repetitive task. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 246 – 247) The text provides the auto assembly line example; another example would be an Amazon warehouse packer who repeatedly packs boxes.

Departmentalization: Groupings of jobs by function, product or service, geography or process. Functional departmentalization would include grouping by departments like sales, human resources, engineering, etc… Grouping by geography would be something like sales regions. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 247 – 248) I’ll stick with the Amazon example, well Whole Foods. Whole Foods stores stock different items based on regionalization; this is an example of departmentalization by geography or territory. Departmentalizing by geography allows Whole Foods to make decisions within a region that appeals to the preferences of consumers with a region.

Chain of Command: The flow of ascribed authority within an organization. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 248 – 249) Chain of command naturally or unnaturally organizes the reporting structure of an organization; superiors direct the work of subordinates and subordinates execute the work at the direction of their superiors. Chain of command created a clear demarcation between those creating direction and those executing tasks.

Span of Control: The number of subordinates a superior can manage, or I’ll say the number of mentees a mentor can mentor. Flat organizations tend to have few managers with a larger span of control while hierarchical organizations tend to have a narrower span of control. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 249 – 250) Both models have pluses and minuses. I prefer a flat organization where management’s has a larger span of control, but there are cases where a narrower span of control is required. I believe that when a narrow span of control is needed a hierarchal structure with additional management is not always required, the mentor and mentee approach with team leads can be an effective way to maintain a flat organizational structure while addressing the need for a narrower span of control.

Centralization and Decentralization: Where power resides in the organization and how decisions are made. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 250 – 251) I think forms of governments provide an excellent example of this. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and as young adult things auto registration and driver license issuance had to be couriered by a private sector company (Best Auto Tag is the one I remember) to Harrisburg, PA, this was the pinnacle of inefficiency. When I moved to New Jersey, I thought the decentralized DMV, where each county had a DMV and could issue auto tags and licenses were incredible and efficient. It’s all relative, who likes the DMV, but after living the centralized Pennsylvania system, New Jersey was a dream.

Formalization: How standardized and rigid is the job role? (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 251) A highly formalized job means the position is standardized and the employee is given no latitude to make subjective or objective decisions. Formalization values the job over the individual, execution of the standardized process is valued over innovation and free thought.

Boundry Spanning: The crossover of an individual or individuals between organizational groups. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 251 – 252) Cross-functional teams are often assembled to ensure that initiatives which impact the entire organization, consider critical stakeholders and are positioned for adoption and success by the broader organization. An example of this is an ERP system roll-out. Because an ERP system will impact every group within the organization the assembly of a cross-functional team consisting of representatives from finance, sales, engineering, HR and IT would be an approach to encourage interaction, develop cross-functional consensus, define product requirements and prioritize initiatives. These individuals then become subject matter experts and evangelists within their respective organization and increase the probability of success of the project.

The factors discussed above are the influencers of organizational structure. By mapping adherence to the seven factors, an organization can be classified as having specific structure types, such as simple structure, a bureaucracy or a matrix structure.

As I researched the factors which influence organizational structure I was intrigued by a peer-reviewed article which discussed the impact of work specialization and departmentalization on job satisfaction. Not hard to see the benefits and drawbacks of job specialization, while small, simple tasks may increase proficiency and lower training costs the finite nature of the job can lead to boredom, job dissatisfaction, which can result in absenteeism and low-quality deliverables. The article also drew a correlation between departmentalization and chain of command, stating that functional departmentalization provided a clear reporting structure, while this seems apparent it highlights that while there are seven factors, they are entwined in such a way that one dominant factor is likely to influence other factors. (Adeyoyin, Agbeze-Unazi, Oyewunmi, Adegun & Ayodele, 2015)


Adeyoyin, S. O., Agbeze-Unazi, F., Oyewunmi, O. O., Adegun, A. I., & Ayodele, R. O. (2015). Effects of job specialization and departmentalization on job satisfaction among the staff of a nigerian university library. Library Philosophy and Practice, , 1.

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.


Response Post

Logan, good explanation of each organizational structure. I’ve seen organizations use a combination of structures, where one division of the organization might be bureaucracy while another follows a matrix structure. One of my first jobs was in big pharma, and the organization was split into two major groups, corporate and R&D. The corporate side of the business was a bureaucracy, and the R&D side of the business was a much flatter matrix structure. These model make sense when you think about the flow of the drug pipeline, the R&D (drug discovery) business is comprised of researchers looking for compounds that will attack viruses, bacteria, diseases, etc., this area of the organization favors velocity and innovation with a fail fast mentality. Once a compound shows promise it moves to drug development, still in R&D but rules get a little tighter as they convert the drug from a compound into a drug (a pill) they can send to the corporate side of the business for clinical trials. Once the drug moves into clinical trials the bureaucracy kicks in, the focus is now on standardization, methodology, and documentation, if the drug passes clinical trials, then it’s on to FDA submissions and if the documentation is not pristine all the dollars invested in the previous phases could be lost.

Both of these models make sense in the context I described above, overall though pharmaceutical companies are bureaucracies, and from what I understand this has gotten worse in the twenty years I have out of this business.

I have heard the argument the text outlines between the production manager, R&D manager, marketing executive and the accounting manager more than a few times. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 253)


Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.