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123 Organizational Structure Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

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Organizational structure is a critical aspect of any business or organization, as it dictates how tasks are divided, roles are assigned, and communication flows within the organization. Choosing the right organizational structure can have a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization as a whole.

If you are struggling to come up with a topic for your organizational structure essay, look no further! Here are 123 organizational structure essay topic ideas and examples to help inspire your writing:

  • The impact of organizational structure on employee morale
  • The role of organizational structure in fostering innovation
  • Comparing and contrasting different types of organizational structures (e.g., functional, matrix, divisional)
  • The influence of organizational structure on decision-making processes
  • How organizational structure affects communication within an organization
  • The relationship between organizational structure and organizational culture
  • The importance of aligning organizational structure with organizational strategy
  • The role of leadership in shaping organizational structure
  • The challenges of implementing a new organizational structure in a well-established organization
  • The impact of organizational structure on employee motivation and job satisfaction
  • Exploring the concept of organizational agility and its relationship to organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting diversity and inclusion within an organization
  • The impact of organizational structure on organizational performance and productivity
  • The benefits and drawbacks of a hierarchical organizational structure
  • Examining the concept of organizational design and its relationship to organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting collaboration and teamwork
  • The impact of organizational structure on employee engagement and retention
  • The relationship between organizational structure and organizational change
  • The role of technology in shaping modern organizational structures
  • Exploring the concept of organizational flatness and its impact on organizational structure
  • The influence of external factors on organizational structure (e.g., industry trends, market conditions)
  • The impact of globalization on organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting accountability and transparency
  • The relationship between organizational structure and organizational performance metrics
  • The impact of organizational structure on organizational learning and knowledge sharing
  • Exploring the concept of organizational silos and their impact on organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting agility and adaptability in a fast-paced business environment
  • The influence of organizational structure on cross-functional collaboration and innovation
  • The relationship between organizational structure and organizational resilience
  • The impact of organizational structure on organizational risk management
  • Exploring the concept of organizational complexity and its relationship to organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting organizational sustainability
  • The influence of organizational structure on organizational governance and decision-making processes
  • The relationship between organizational structure and organizational leadership styles
  • The impact of organizational structure on organizational culture and values
  • Exploring the concept of organizational hierarchy and its impact on organizational structure
  • The role of organizational structure in promoting organizational transparency and accountability
  • The influence of organizational structure on organizational communication practices

These are just a few examples of the many topics you could explore in an organizational structure essay. Whether you are interested in the theoretical aspects of organizational design or the practical implications of different structures on organizational performance, there is no shortage of ideas to explore in this field. Happy writing!

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Organization and Structure

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There is no single organizational pattern that works well for all writing across all disciplines; rather, organization depends on what you’re writing, who you’re writing it for, and where your writing will be read. In order to communicate your ideas, you’ll need to use a logical and consistent organizational structure in all of your writing. We can think about organization at the global level (your entire paper or project) as well as at the local level (a chapter, section, or paragraph). For an American academic situation, this means that at all times, the goal of revising for organization and structure is to consciously design your writing projects to make them easy for readers to understand. In this context, you as the writer are always responsible for the reader's ability to understand your work; in other words, American academic writing is writer-responsible. A good goal is to make your writing accessible and comprehensible to someone who just reads sections of your writing rather than the entire piece. This handout provides strategies for revising your writing to help meet this goal.

Note that this resource focuses on writing for an American academic setting, specifically for graduate students. American academic writing is of course not the only standard for academic writing, and researchers around the globe will have different expectations for organization and structure. The OWL has some more resources about writing for American and international audiences here .

Whole-Essay Structure

While organization varies across and within disciplines, usually based on the genre, publication venue, and other rhetorical considerations of the writing, a great deal of academic writing can be described by the acronym IMRAD (or IMRaD): Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. This structure is common across most of the sciences and is often used in the humanities for empirical research. This structure doesn't serve every purpose (for instance, it may be difficult to follow IMRAD in a proposal for a future study or in more exploratory writing in the humanities), and it is often tweaked or changed to fit a particular situation. Still, its wide use as a base for a great deal of scholarly writing makes it worthwhile to break down here.

  • Introduction : What is the purpose of the study? What were the research questions? What necessary background information should the reader understand to help contextualize the study? (Some disciplines include their literature review section as part of the introduction; some give the literature review its own heading on the same level as the other sections, i.e., ILMRAD.) Some writers use the CARS model to help craft their introductions more effectively.
  • Methods: What methods did the researchers use? How was the study conducted? If the study included participants, who were they, and how were they selected?
  • Results : This section lists the data. What did the researchers find as a result of their experiments (or, if the research is not experimental, what did the researchers learn from the study)? How were the research questions answered?
  • Discussion : This section places the data within the larger conversation of the field. What might the results mean? Do these results agree or disagree with other literature cited? What should researchers do in the future?

Depending on your discipline, this may be exactly the structure you should use in your writing; or, it may be a base that you can see under the surface of published pieces in your field, which then diverge from the IMRAD structure to meet the expectations of other scholars in the field. However, you should always check to see what's expected of you in a given situation; this might mean talking to the professor for your class, looking at a journal's submission guidelines, reading your field's style manual, examining published examples, or asking a trusted mentor. Every field is a little different.

Outlining & Reverse Outlining

One of the most effective ways to get your ideas organized is to write an outline. A traditional outline comes as the pre-writing or drafting stage of the writing process. As you make your outline, think about all of the concepts, topics, and ideas you will need to include in order to accomplish your goal for the piece of writing. This may also include important citations and key terms. Write down each of these, and then consider what information readers will need to know in order for each point to make sense. Try to arrange your ideas in a way that logically progresses, building from one key idea or point to the next.

Questions for Writing Outlines

  • What are the main points I am trying to make in this piece of writing?
  • What background information will my readers need to understand each point? What will novice readers vs. experienced readers need to know?
  • In what order do I want to present my ideas? Most important to least important, or least important to most important? Chronologically? Most complex to least complex? According to categories? Another order?

Reverse outlining comes at the drafting or revision stage of the writing process. After you have a complete draft of your project (or a section of your project), work alone or with a partner to read your project with the goal of understanding the main points you have made and the relationship of these points to one another. The OWL has another resource about reverse outlining here.

Questions for Writing Reverse Outlines

  • What topics are covered in this piece of writing?
  • In what order are the ideas presented? Is this order logical for both novice and experienced readers?
  • Is adequate background information provided for each point, making it easy to understand how one idea leads to the next?
  • What other points might the author include to further develop the writing project?

Organizing at the sentence and paragraph level


Signposting is the practice of using language specifically designed to help orient readers of your text. We call it signposting because this practice is like leaving road signs for a driver — it tells your reader where to go and what to expect up ahead. Signposting includes the use of transitional words and phrasing, and they may be explicit or more subtle. For example, an explicit signpost might say:

This section will cover Topic A­­ and Topic B­­­­­.

A more subtle signpost might look like this:

It's important to consider the impact of Topic A­­ and Topic B­­­­­.

The style of signpost you use will depend on the genre of your paper, the discipline in which you are writing, and your or your readers’ personal preferences. Regardless of the style of signpost you select, it’s important to include signposts regularly. They occur most frequently at the beginnings and endings of sections of your paper. It is often helpful to include signposts at mid-points in your project in order to remind readers of where you are in your argument.

Questions for Identifying and Evaluating Signposts

  • How and where does the author include a phrase, sentence, or short group of sentences that explains the purpose and contents of the paper?
  • How does each section of the paper provide a brief summary of what was covered earlier in the paper?
  • How does each section of the paper explain what will be covered in that section?
  • How does the author use transitional words and phrases to guide readers through ideas (e.g. however, in addition, similarly, nevertheless, another, while, because, first, second, next, then etc.)?


Clark, I. (2006). Writing the successful thesis and dissertation: Entering the conversation . Prentice Hall Press.

Davis, M., Davis, K. J., & Dunagan, M. (2012). Scientific papers and presentations . Academic press.

106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics

🏆 best essay topics on organizational structure, ✍️ organizational structure essay topics for college, 👍 good organizational structure research topics & essay examples, 🎓 most interesting organizational structure research titles, ❓ research questions on organizational structure.

  • Current Organizational Structure of British Airways
  • Organizational Structure: Zara
  • Apple: Organizational Culture, Structure, and Leadership
  • Apple Organizational Behavior, Structure, & Culture
  • Hospital’s Organizational Structure and Departments
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: Organizational Structure, Recruiting, Training, & More
  • Organizational Structure of the Tesla Company
  • Alibaba Organizational Structure and Values Alibaba Group Holding Limited specializes on the online trades accomplished by means of mobile services and the internet.
  • Organizational Structure of the Private Medical Company The current essay describes the organizational structure and the organizational chart of the private medical company that provides services in the field of laboratory diagnostics.
  • Organizational Structure of Google Company: Case Study Example The organization structure at Google is highly decentralized, which makes sense considering the large size of the organization.
  • Organizational Structures in the Clinical Environment Healthcare organizations can choose among several effective organizational structures, the most notable of which are functional, service line matrix, and flat.
  • Organizational Structure and the Global Marketing The study is about Monster Health care Company (MH Co), headquartered in the northeastern part of the United States.
  • McDonald’s Restaurant Chain’s Organizational Structure The present paper examines the organizational structure of a McDonald’s restaurant and discusses its classification.
  • Walmart Company: Organizational Structure, Mission, and Vision Walmart employs a structure known as a hierarchy; senior managers make the high-level decisions that guide the company.
  • McDonald’s: Organizational Structure At McDonald’s, the hierarchical structure of the organization fits the company’s goals and mission since it is a clear, subordination-oriented, and controllable structural model.
  • The Dow Corning Organization’s Structure The current paper demonstrates the impact of organizational structure and managerial practices on business performance on the example of Dow Corning.
  • The Novant Health Organization’s Structure & Management This paper analyzes Novant Health’s organizational structure, service line, the interaction between leadership and service quality, and management strategy.
  • HubSpot Firm’s Organizational Structure and Culture HubSpot follows a team-based organizational structure and prioritizes sharing creative ideas and promoting diversity by providing opportunities for various social groups.
  • Twitter Organizational Structure Besides the promotion of the brand, businessmen use the platform the search for operative information, research competitors, and for finding out the topical news of the current day.
  • Organizational Structure of The Ambulatory Surgery Center The Ambulatory Surgery Center was not sufficiently equipped with all technical devices necessary for performing daily operations.
  • Alberta Health Services: Organizational Structure In this essay, the organizational and relationship diagram of the Alberta Health Services will be discussed in detail.
  • Nucor Corporation’s Organizational Structure Nucor’s strategic plan included new acquisition and even new joint ventures that had been successfully implemented since the start of the new millennium.
  • The Link Between Organizational Structure and Change The organizational structure is a set of organizational units, and their interrelationships, within which management tasks are distributed between the units.
  • Hospital Organizational Structure Breakdown Any hospital has an adequately organized structure, consisting of specific components without which the healthcare organization will not function for its patients’ benefit.
  • Project Management and Organizational Structure A Guide to the Project Management underlines the main characteristics of projects: “performed by people, constrained by limited resources and planned, executed and controlled”.
  • Clinx Clinic’s Organizational Structure and Staffing Most structures in organizations are in a hierarchical manner, with the top management at the apex, followed by middle management, senior supervisors and the workers.
  • Organizational Culture, Structure, and Leadership in the 21st Century International and local companies of the 21st century have to change their missions, organizational culture, structure, power division, reward system, and leadership styles.
  • Organizational Structures: Ford Motor Company The development of Ford Motor Company is shaped by different internal and external forces. The firm has matrix structure due to the peculiarities of their human resource and operation standards.
  • Relations Between Organizational Structures and Behavior Researching organizational behavior helps employers obtain an insight into covert patterns of their employees’ performance at work.
  • Organizational Structure’s and Culture Relationship The paper considers the questions about creating and managing organizational culture, and organizational design and strategy in a changing global environment.
  • Organizational Culture, Structure, and Leadership in the 21st century Traditional organizational culture stressed commitment, solidarity, identity, and sameness. New companies are oriented on responsiveness, cooperation, performance, and diversity.
  • Organizational Theory, Structure, Change, and Culture in Health Care In health care, organizational theory is used by the executives of hospitals and other health care organizations to improve their functioning and the quality of services.
  • Organizational Performance and Structure in Healthcare The structure and the leadership of a health organization influence the motivation, work environment and the general feeling of the patients and health care workers.
  • Cooperatives’ Types and Organizational Structure Cooperatives can be classified into five main types according to their principal economic activity: consumer, producer, worker, purchasing, and hybrid.
  • Organizational Structures: History and Development This paper provided general information about the history of organizational structures, their development, and the implications of emerging organizational structures.
  • Organizational Management and Structure Efficient and effective organizations should develop effective sharing goals at each corporate level. Management successfully communicates with employees about its goals.
  • Google’s Values, Image, Organizational Structure The paper discusses the multifaceted value system of Google, the company’s organizational structure, its image and ways of presentation of this image to the public.
  • The American Nurses Association and Their Organizational Structure The paper discusses the comprehensive integration of nurses in all levels of the healthcare delivery systems improves the quality of the provided healthcare to the patients.
  • Organizational Structure of Vipshop Holdings Limited The divisional structure is highly suitable for companies that operate with independent business units that offer distinct and recognizable products.
  • Good Mark Precision Industrial Company’s Organizational Structure Good Mark Precision Company has lately been established in China, it’s a foreign-owned venture and is invested by Good Mark Industrial which is headquartered in Hong Kong.
  • Hospitals’ Centralized Organizational Structure Healthcare providers should possess culturally competent skills in order to support the diverse health needs of persons from diverse backgrounds.
  • Organizational Structure: Matrix (Balanced) Lucky me Animal Rescue is an organization that has a mission of protecting the welfare of homeless and abandoned animals that live on the street.
  • Impacts of Organizational Culture and Structure on Healthcare Outcomes The paragraphs discuss the implications of organizational structure and culture on performance and how nurse leaders can promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • The Zappos Firm’s Effective Organizational Structure Reception to customers and staff by Zappos company will improve their client service and expand their employees’ attitudes and work environment.
  • Organizational Structures: The Systems Archetypes Organizational structures have repeating archetypes. Recognizing and addressing these archetypes breaks down complex management problems into manageable tasks.
  • Organizational Structures and Management The paper discusses only the differences between the approaches to managing business activity due to the absence of shared characteristics.
  • Differences in Organizational Structures The paper talks about the differences in organizational structures and how they can impact a company’s bottom line.
  • Aspects of Organizational Structure Organizational structure refers to the system encompassing fundamental activities within a particular enterprise that define its operating procedures and routine rests.
  • Organizational Structure for Redeemer Residence Minneapolis This paper aims to identify different organizational structures within the current healthcare system and explain leadership theories for improving organizational performance.
  • Organizational Structure and Market Strategies The paper describes three very different global companies, determines their organizational structure, and what market entry strategies each of these companies are currently using.
  • Strategic Management and Organizational Structure The importance of organizational structure is that it facilitates teamwork and enhances communication across all levels of organizations.
  • Organizational Behavior: Definition and Structure For any employee, manager, entrepreneur, and administrator working in the field of business, understanding organizational behavior is essential.
  • Hardford Hospital’s New Organizational Structure The implementation of the model of shared governance at the Hardford hospital setting has proven to be effective for the client-centered approach to providing health care services.
  • Comparison: The Goods and Services and the Organizational Structure Apart from various factors influencing the choice of organizational structure, it is essential to take into account the goods and services the company produces.
  • Organization’s Internal Environment Structure In an organization the management compensates employees as a way of attracting, recruiting, and also reducing employees’ turnover.
  • Organizational Structures and Their Differences An organization has a specific structure according to which the relationships within its context are built, and the principles of the corporate culture are redesigned.
  • Galanz Enterprise Group’s Organizational Structure As a private company, Galanz consists of 14 production facilities that operate across China. It is one of the largest companies in the world in the microwave business.
  • Organizational Structure: Project Leadership Drug to drug interactions are among the major causes of medicine-induced harm in patients with various diseases.
  • Small Business Organization’s Structure The structure can improve or disrupt the quality of the product. The following paper analyzes the organizational structure of a small business organization.
  • Organizational Structure, Its Types and Influences The paper studies the effects of organizational structure on employees, types of organizational structures, and proposes a solution to mitigate negative implications.
  • Texas’ Local Government and Its Organizational Structure The Texas local government is made up of several members in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the Texas House of Representatives, and the Texas Senate.
  • Market Structure, Organizational Structure, and R&D Diversity
  • Labor Union Bargaining and Firm Organizational Structure
  • Consumer Search, Competition, and the Organizational Structure of Multi-Unit Firms
  • Organizational Structure and the Choice of Price vs. Quantity in a Mixed Duopoly
  • The Organizational Structure and Leadership in Different Gangs
  • Siemens Organizational Structure: The Hard Task of Restructuring
  • The Centralized Organizational Structure of the Us Military
  • The Desirable Organizational Structure for Evolutionary Firms in Static Landscapes
  • Organizational Structure and Expected Output at Nuclear Power Plants
  • Factors Affecting Organizational Structure Selection in Multinational Companies
  • The Theoretical Organizational Structure and How It Is Used in Organizations
  • REIT Organizational Structure and Operating Characteristics
  • The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Organizational Structure of Airborne Express
  • Mintzberg’s Hypothesis for the Design of Organizational Structure
  • Different Organizational Structure Types Used in the UK Business
  • Debt Restructuring and the Role of Banks’ Organizational Structure and Lending Technologies
  • Organizational Structure and Operation of the Illinois Wine Industry
  • Healthcare Organizational Structure and Implementing Strategy
  • SME’s Main Bank Choice and Organizational Structure: Evidence From France
  • Organizational Structure and Metropolitan Hospital Center of New York
  • How Do Organizational Structure and Culture Affect Business Performance?
  • What Is an Organizational Structure and What Is Its Importance in the Workplace?
  • How Does Organizational Structure Affect Project Management Implementation?
  • Is There a Relationship Between Organizational Structure and Culture?
  • What Is the Most Effective Organizational Structure and Why?
  • How Does Organizational Structure Impact People’s Business?
  • Why Has Apple a Flat Organizational Structure?
  • What Affects the Organizational Structure of a Company the Most?
  • Does Organizational Structure Impact Competitive Advantage?
  • What Are the Main Organizational Structures?
  • How Can the Company Outgrow Its Current Organizational Structure?
  • Why Is a Flat Organizational Structure Good?
  • How Can the Relationship Between an Organizational Structure and Culture Impact the Performance of the Business?
  • What Organizational Structure Is Best for Startups?
  • Why Is Organizational Structure Important?
  • How Does Organizational Structure Influence the Behavior of the Employee at Workplace?
  • What Is a Traditional Organizational Structure?
  • Does Organizational Culture Affect Organizational Change?
  • How Are Organizational Structure and Culture Related?
  • What Are the Key Elements of Organizational Structure?
  • How Does Organizational Structure Affect Decision-Making?
  • What Is the Difference Between Organization Structure and Organizational Structure?
  • How Does Environment Impact Organizational Structure?
  • What Type of Organizational Structure Is McDonald’s?
  • Does Organizational Structure Affect a Company’s Culture?

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StudyCorgi. (2022, July 14). 106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/organizational-structure-essay-topics/

"106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics." StudyCorgi , 14 July 2022, studycorgi.com/ideas/organizational-structure-essay-topics/.

StudyCorgi . (2022) '106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics'. 14 July.

1. StudyCorgi . "106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics." July 14, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/organizational-structure-essay-topics/.


StudyCorgi . "106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics." July 14, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/organizational-structure-essay-topics/.

StudyCorgi . 2022. "106 Organizational Structure Essay Topics." July 14, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ideas/organizational-structure-essay-topics/.

These essay examples and topics on Organizational Structure were carefully selected by the StudyCorgi editorial team. They meet our highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, and fact accuracy. Please ensure you properly reference the materials if you’re using them to write your assignment.

This essay topic collection was updated on January 8, 2024 .

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9.3 Organizing Your Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
  • Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
  • Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
  • Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.

The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.

This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:

  • Chronological order
  • Order of importance
  • Spatial order

When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.

A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.

Chronological Order

In Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:

  • To explain the history of an event or a topic
  • To tell a story or relate an experience
  • To explain how to do or to make something
  • To explain the steps in a process

Chronological order is mostly used in expository writing , which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first , second , then , after that , later , and finally . These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.

For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first , then , next , and so on.

Writing at Work

At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.

Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.

Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:

  • Writing essays containing heavy research
  • Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
  • Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books

When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first , second , then , and finally .

Order of Importance

Recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that order of importance is best used for the following purposes:

  • Persuading and convincing
  • Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
  • Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution

Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.

For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.

Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly , almost as importantly , just as importantly , and finally .

During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

Spatial Order

As stated in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , spatial order is best used for the following purposes:

  • Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
  • Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
  • Writing a descriptive essay

Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.

The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.

Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.

Attached to my bedroom wall is a small wooden rack dangling with red and turquoise necklaces that shimmer as you enter. Just to the right of the rack is my window, framed by billowy white curtains. The peace of such an image is a stark contrast to my desk, which sits to the right of the window, layered in textbooks, crumpled papers, coffee cups, and an overflowing ashtray. Turning my head to the right, I see a set of two bare windows that frame the trees outside the glass like a 3D painting. Below the windows is an oak chest from which blankets and scarves are protruding. Against the wall opposite the billowy curtains is an antique dresser, on top of which sits a jewelry box and a few picture frames. A tall mirror attached to the dresser takes up most of the wall, which is the color of lavender.

The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.

The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:

  • Just to the left or just to the right
  • On the left or on the right
  • Across from
  • A little further down
  • To the south, to the east, and so on
  • A few yards away
  • Turning left or turning right

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Key Takeaways

  • The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
  • A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
  • Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
  • Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
  • Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
  • Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

10.1 Organizational Structures and Design

  • What are mechanistic versus organic organizational structures?

First, an organizational structure is a system for accomplishing and connecting the activities that occur within a work organization. People rely on structures to know what work they should do, how their work supports or relies on other employees, and how these work activities fulfill the purpose of the organization itself.

Second, organizational design is the process of setting up organizational structures to address the needs of an organization and account for the complexity involved in accomplishing business objectives.

Next, organizational change refers to the constant shifts that occur within an organizational system—for example, as people enter or leave the organization, market conditions shift, supply sources change, or adaptations are introduced in the processes for accomplishing work. Through managed change , leaders in an organization can intentionally shape how these shifts occur over time.

Finally, organizational development (OD) is the label for a field that specializes in change management. OD specialists draw on social science to guide change processes that simultaneously help a business achieve its objectives while generating well-being for employees and sustainable benefits for society. An understanding of OD practices is essential for leaders who want to maximize the potential of their organizations over a long period of time.

Together, an understanding of these concepts can help managers know how to create and direct organizations that are positioned to successfully accomplish strategic goals and objectives. 1

To understand the role of organizational structure, consider the experience of Justin, a young manager who worked for a logistics and transportation company. Their success at leading change in the United States gave their leaders the confidence that Justin could handle a challenging assignment: organize a new supply chain and distribution system for a company in Northern Europe. Almost overnight, Justin was responsible for hiring competent people, forming them into a coherent organization, training them, and establishing the needed infrastructure for sustained success in this new market.

If you were given this assignment, what would you do? How would you organize your employees? How would you help them understand the challenge of setting up a new organization and system? These are the kinds of questions that require an understanding of organizational structure, organizational design, organizational change, and organizational development.

One of the first issues Justin will need to address deals with how they will organize the system. “The decisions about the structure of an organization are all related to the concept of organizational design. There are two fundamental forms of structure to remember when designing an organization.

To address these questions, we need to be familiar with two fundamental ways of building an organization.

The formal organization is an officially defined set of relationships, responsibilities, and connections that exist across an organization. The traditional organizational chart, as illustrated in Exhibit 10.2 , is perhaps the most common way of depicting the formal organization. The typical organization has a hierarchical form with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

When Justin sets up the formal organization, they will need to design the administrative responsibilities and communication structures that should function within an organizational system. The formal systems describe how flow of information and resources should occur within an organization. To establish the formal organization, they will identify the essential functions that need to be part of the system, and they will hire people to fill these functions. They will then need to help employees learn their functions and how these functions should relate to one another.

The informal organization is sometimes referred to as the invisible network of interpersonal relationships that shape how people actually connect with one another to carry out their activities. The informal organization is emergent, meaning that it is formed through the common conversations and relationships that often naturally occur as people interact with one another in their day-to-day relationships. It is usually complex, impossible to control, and has the potential to significantly influence an organization’s success.

As depicted in Exhibit 10.3 , the informal organization can also be mapped, but it is usually very different than the formal organization. The chart you see in this example is called a network map, because it depicts the relationships that exist between different members of a system. Some members are more central than others, and the strength of relationships may vary between any two pairs or groups of individuals. These relationships are constantly in flux, as people interact with new individuals, current relationships evolve, and the organization itself changes over time. 2

The informal organization in Justin’s design will form as people begin interacting with one another to accomplish their work. As this occurs, people will begin connecting with one another as they make sense of their new roles and relationships. Usually, the informal organization closely mirrors the formal organization, but often it is different. People quickly learn who the key influencers are within the system, and they will begin to rely on these individuals to accomplish the work of the organization. The informal organization can either help or hinder an organization’s overall success.

In sum, the formal organization explains how an organization should function, while the informal organization is how the organizational actually functions. Formal organization will come as Justin hires and assigns people to different roles. They can influence the shape of the informal organization by giving people opportunities to build relationships as they work together. Both types of structures shape the patterns of influence, administration, and leadership that may occur through an organizational system.

As we continue our discussion of structure and design, we will next examine different ways of understanding formal structure.

Types of Formal Organizational Structures

Now, Justin will need to choose and implement an administrative system for delegating duties, establishing oversight, and reporting on performance. They will do this by designing a formal structure that defines the responsibilities and accountability that correspond to specific duties throughout an organizational system. In this section, we’ll discuss the factors that any manager should consider when designing an organizational structure.


One of the most common frameworks for thinking about these issues is called the bureaucratic model . It was developed by Max Weber, a 19th-century sociologist. Weber’s central assumption was that organizations will find efficiencies when they divide the duties of labor, allow people to specialize, and create structure for coordinating their differentiated efforts, usually within a hierarchy of responsibility. He proposed five elements of bureaucracy that serve as a foundation for determining an appropriate structure: specialization, command-and-control, span of control, centralization, and formalization. 3


The degree to which people are organized into subunits according to their expertise is referred to as specialization —for example, human resources, finance, marketing, or manufacturing. It may also include specialization within those functions. For instance, people who work in a manufacturing facility may be well-versed in every part of a manufacturing process, or they may be organized into specialty units that focus on different parts of the manufacturing process, such as procurement, material preparation, assembly, quality control, and the like.


The next element to consider is the reporting and oversight structure of the organization. Command-and-control refers to the way in which people report to one another or connect to coordinate their efforts in accomplishing the work of the organization.

Span of Control

Another question addresses the scope of the work that any one person in the organization will be accountable for, referred to as span of control . For instance, top-level leaders are usually responsible for all of the work of their subordinates, mid-level leaders are responsible for a narrower set of responsibilities, and ground-level employees usually perform very specific tasks. Each manager in a hierarchy works within the span of control of another manager at a level of the organization.


The next element to consider is how to manage the flows of resources and information in an organization, or its centralization . A highly centralized organization concentrates resources in only one or very few locations, or only a few individuals are authorized to make decisions about the use of resources. In contrast, a diffuse organization distributes resources more broadly throughout an organizational system along with the authority to make decisions about how to use those resources.


The last element of bureaucracy, formalization , refers to the degree of definition in the roles that exist throughout an organization. A highly formalized system (e.g., the military) has a very defined organization, a tightly structured system, in which all of the jobs, responsibilities, and accountability structures are very clearly understood. In contrast, a loosely structured system (e.g., a small, volunteer nonprofit) relies heavily on the emergent relationships of informal organization.

Mechanistic and Organic Structures

Using the principles of bureaucracy outlined above, managers like Justin have experimented with many different structures as way to shape the formal organization and potentially to capture some of the advantages of the informal organization. Generally, the application of these principles leads to some combination of the two kinds of structures that can be seen as anchors on a continuum (see Table 10.1 ).

On one end of the continuum is mechanistic bureaucratic structure . This is a strongly hierarchical form of organizing that is designed to generate a high degree of standardization and control. Mechanistic organizations are often characterized by a highly vertical organizational structure , or a “tall” structure, due to the presence of many levels of management. A mechanistic structure tends to dictate roles and procedure through strong routines and standard operating practices.

In contrast, an organic bureaucratic structure relies on the ability of people to self-organize and make decisions without much direction such that they can adapt quickly to changing circumstances. In an organic organization, it is common to see a horizontal organizational structure , in which many individuals across the whole system are empowered to make organizational decision. An organization with a horizontal structure is also known as a flat organization because it often features only a few levels of organizational hierarchy.

The principles of bureaucracy outlined earlier can be applied in different ways, depending on the context of the organization and the managers’ objectives, to create structures that have features of either mechanistic or organic structures.

For example, the degree of specialization required in an organization depends both on the complexity of the activities the organization needs to account for and on the scale of the organization. A more organic organization may encourage employees to be both specialists and generalists so that they are more aware of opportunities for innovation within a system. A mechanistic organization may emphasize a strong degree of specialization so that essential procedures or practices are carried out with consistency and predictable precision. Thus, an organization’s overall objectives drive how specialization should be viewed. For example, an organization that produces innovation needs to be more organic, while an organization that seeks reliability needs to be more mechanistic.

Similarly, the need for a strong environment of command-and-control varies by the circumstances of each organization. An organization that has a strong command-and-control system usually requires a vertical, tall organizational administrative structure. Organizations that exist in loosely defined or ambiguous environments need to distribute decision-making authority to employees, and thus will often feature a flat organizational structure.

The span of control assigned to any specific manager is commonly used to encourage either mechanistic or organic bureaucracy. Any manager’s ability to attend to responsibilities has limits; indeed, the amount of work anyone can accomplish is finite. A manager in an organic structure usually has a broad span of control, forcing her to rely more on subordinates to make decisions. A manager in a mechanistic structure usually has a narrow span of control so that they can provide more oversight. Thus, increasing span of control for a manager tends to flatten the hierarchy while narrowing span of control tends to reinforce the hierarchy.

Centralization addresses assumptions about how an organization can best achieve efficiencies in its operations. In a mechanistic structure, it is assumed that efficiencies will occur in the system if the resources and decisions flow through in a centralized way. In an organic system, it is assumed that greater efficiencies will be seen by distributing those resources and having the resources sorted by the users of the resources. Either perspective may work, depending on the circumstances.

Finally, managers also have discretion in how tightly they choose to define the formal roles and responsibilities of individuals within an organization. Managers who want to encourage organic bureaucracy will resist the idea of writing out and tightly defining roles and responsibilities. They will encourage and empower employees to self-organize and define for themselves the roles they wish to fill. In contrast, managers who wish to encourage more mechanistic bureaucracy will use tools such as standard operating procedures (SOPs) or written policies to set expectations and exercise clear controls around those expectations for employees.

When a bureaucratic structure works well, an organization achieves an appropriate balance across all of these considerations. Employees specialize in and become highly advanced in their ability to perform specific functions while also attending to broader organizational needs. They receive sufficient guidance from managers to stay aligned with overall organizational goals. The span of control given to any one manager encourages them to provide appropriate oversight while also relying on employees to do their part. The resources and decision-making necessary to accomplish the goals of the organization are efficiently managed. There is an appropriate balance between compliance with formal policy and innovative action.

Business Structures

Aside from the considerations outlined above, organizations will often set structures according to the functional needs of the organization. A functional need refers to a feature of the organization or its environment that is necessary for organizational success. A business structure is designed to address these organizational needs. There are two common examples of functional structures illustrated here.

Product structures exist where the business organizes its employees according to product lines or lines of business. For example, employees in a car company might be organized according to the model of the vehicle that they help to support or produce. Employees in a consulting firm might be organized around a particular kind of practice that they work in or support. Where a functional structure exists, employees become highly attuned to their own line of business or their own product.

Geographic structures exist where organizations are set up to deliver a range of products within a geographic area or region. Here, the business is set up based on a territory or region. Managers of a particular unit oversee all of the operations of the business for that geographical area.

In either functional structure, the manager will oversee all the activities that correspond to that function: marketing, manufacturing, delivery, client support systems, and so forth. In some ways, a functional structure is like a smaller version of the larger organization—a smaller version of the bureaucracy that exists within the larger organization.

One common weakness of a bureaucratic structure is that people can become so focused on their own part of the organization that they fail to understand or connect with broader organizational activities. In the extreme, bureaucracy separates and alienates workers from one another. These problems can occur when different parts of an organization fail to communicate effectively with one another.

Some organizations set up a matrix structure to minimize the potential for these problems. A matrix structure describes an organization that has multiple reporting lines of authority. For example, an employee who specializes in a particular product might have both the functional reporting line and a geographic reporting line. This employee has accountability in both directions. The functional responsibility has to do with her specialty as it correlates with the strategy of the company as a whole. However, her geographic accountability is to the manager who is responsible for the region or part of the organization in which she is currently working. The challenge is that an employee may be accountable to two or more managers, and this can create conflict if those managers are not aligned. The potential benefit, however, is that employees may be more inclined to pay attention to the needs of multiple parts of the business simultaneously.

Concept Check

  • What is an organizational structure?
  • What are different types of organizational structures?
  • What is organizational design?
  • What concepts should guide decisions about how to design structures?

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  • Authors: David S. Bright, Anastasia H. Cortes
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  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/principles-management/pages/1-introduction
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Essay on Organizational Structures


The existence of various internal and external factors shape organizations in the corporate world. These factors determine the strengths and weaknesses of an organization. The organization’s success is also based on strategies used to develop and sustain a good relationship among organizational stakeholders. When starting a company, choosing a relevant structure that suits the organization is the best idea, although these structures present some challenges. This paper explores various concepts, theories, and frameworks, which form part of organizational structures.

Factors Determining Stability and Uncertainty in an Organization

Organizational success or failures are based on various factors that determine stability and uncertainty in an organizational setting. Factors include socio-cultural differences, organization legal frameworks, technological aspects, political environment, shareholders, and economic base influence organization stability and uncertainty. Madinda (2014) classified four environmental forces: competitive environment, internal environment, external environment, and general environment, as forces that influence the organizational environment. Below is descriptions of these forces.

Technological Factor

Technology is an emerging trend in the organizational setting and the entire corporate world. Technology involved processes in which various kinds of work in an organization are conducted. It comprises machines, devices, operating systems, hardware, or software. Technology improves access and provision of organizational services to benefit customers, employees, and business associates. Technology enhances the organization’s stability by producing high-quality products and services, allowing the organization to remain competitive in the market. In contrast, technology leads to uncertainty, especially to administrators, when deciding on technological choices due to dynamic and ever-changing technology (Madinda, 2014).

Legal Factor

Madinda (2014) explores legal factors by demonstrating the significance of employment laws that regulate employee’s lives at the organization. These laws safeguard employees from exploitation, including financial, unfair dismissal, discrimination, safety environment, and unbiased decision. These laws protect the welfare of employees, thus increasing their productivity in the workplace. However, these laws present uncertainties to the organization since they are not fixed. The laws subject to amendments over and again based on the employee’s well-being. Besides, these laws are characterized by concerns like inequalities in employment relationship between employers and employees.

Socio-Cultural Factor

Social factors, including leadership approaches and attitudes towards work, are attributed as leading factors to environmental uncertainty. Also, the issues of gender sensitivity and equality pose a challenge to policymakers and administrators. In the workplace, there is a challenge in maintaining an optimum balance between men and women in a leadership position (Madinda, 2014).

Political Factor

The introduction of political systems and reforms has significantly influenced the organizational environment. For example, the introduction of deregulation policies and privatization has negatively undermined various organizations. For example, privatization has given the private sector more freedom to venture into productions initially controlled by the government. As a result, this has motivated investors to impose a high cost of products and services, thus undermining some organizations’ operations and existence, leading to uncertainties (Madinda, 2014).

Comparisons between Open and Closed Systems

As open or closed, the classification of systems in organization is based on systems capacity to interrelate with the environment. An open system can describe as a system that interrelates with its environment and exchanges resources and information with the environment. An open system can be ascribed a ‘self-organizing,’ since the system changes the organization according to changing situations. In contrast, a closed system is one that does not correlate with its environment (Allen & Sawhney, 2015).

From the humanistic management perspective, an open system depicts workers as a team of work organizations that contribute to external influences through values and behaviors, which positively reinforce internal organizational functioning. At the heart of this system, an organization forms part of the external environment. The models of open systems are entrenched on human relations theory, whose characteristics differentiate the open system models from models of closed systems, such as mutual respect, human dignity, motivation, and individual difference. In contrast, the closed system models assume that the external environment, including technological advancement, legal decisions, and demographic features, does not affect the organization’s functioning. As such, models of close systems do not rely on the external environment to solve managerial issues or provide any other explanations. The strategies of central management are believed to be key to solving any issue. In open systems, the external environment contributes significantly to solving organizations’ issues (Allen & Sawhney, 2015).

Additionally, unlike closed systems, open systems are very difficult to understand because of complexities and dynamic interrelationships from external factors. Moreover, employees in an open system are driven by the desire to achieve more for the organization. In case of any issue, every employee expresses commitment to the solution to the issue. However, employees in a closed system do not participate actively in development and providing a solution to problems. This model states that organizational problems shall be addressed only by the management; hence employees have no role. Lastly, a closed system is associated with Max Weber’s bureaucratic model. This model emphasized that highly rational bureaucracy is important in attaining the objectives of the society. In a closed system, bureaucracy gives departments and those in authority to developed mentality that departments and management are more important than the organization. In contrast, open system theorists have a different perception of organizational structure and its role in society. To them, models of open systems perceive organization roles in society to be interrelating and interlocking (Allen & Sawhney, 2015).

Strategies for Enhancing Inter-Organizational Relationships

Building and maintaining a good relationship are at the heart of every organization. Strong inter-organizational relationships among employers, employees, and other stakeholders is key to attaining or organizational goals. The strength of an organization is anchored on the power of connections among organizational stakeholders. Below are ways of building and sustaining the inter-organizational relationship.

A good relationship is based on understanding and learning about other people’s cultures. Knowing one another could lead to increase concern and caring for each other. This will minimize cases of oppression or discrimination in the workplace. A strong relationship is built when employees act boldly on behalf of one another. Besides, establishing collaboration enhance good relations. Collaboration fosters good relations in which individuals communicate effectively and share their thoughts and emotions without any concerns or fear. Likewise, collaboration allows workers to make more informed and profitable decisions. Also, establishing trust among workers is key to creating a healthy setting where relationship-building can be nurtured. Trust builds transparency by enabling employees to understand organizations’ strategies, goals, expectations, and paths for individual development (University of Kansas, 2018).

These relationships can be sustained through various approaches. For example, paying attention to another and helping each other in accomplishing the organizational task. Also, communicating openly encourages good relations by avoiding misunderstandings that could build tensions among workers. Also, scheduling regular meetings sessions brings together workers to share their ideas, perspectives, and suggestions to improve operations within the organization. Regular meetings allows organization stakeholders to read from the same script and provide a win-win relationship among them. Lastly, loyalty is an important value that sustains a healthy relationship. Regardless of the disagreement, with loyalty, workers would respect each other’s opinions (University of Kansas, 2018).

Implications of Organizational Structures

The four basic organizational structures include functional, divisional, matrix, and flatarchy structures. Each organizational structure has different advantages and disadvantages, as discuss below;

This structure is based on an organization being subdivided into smaller units with certain roles and responsibilities. For instance, an organization may have a unit working in finance, another in information technology, and another in public relations. Each unit has a manager or supervisor who reports to an executive. One of the advantages of a functional structure is that employees are clustered according to their skills and experience, thus allowing them to concentrate and contribute their competencies. Also, workers are dedicated and committed to a single role. However, one of the challenges presented by this structure is the lack of inter-departmental communication, whereby decision-making only occurs in the managerial position (Point Park University, 2019).

Many larger corporate institutions use this structure. The divisional structure offers more autonomy to employees within the organization. Also, every unit functions by controlling its financers and resources, thus providing more flexibility to the organization. Under this structure, sub-division can be established geographically, with many units in various parts of the world. This structure is disadvantageous on issues to do with high tax implication and accounting practices.

Matrix structure comprises the functional structure blending with the projected structure. Employees can report to more than one boss, including project managers and department managers. Also, this structure has a lot of flexibility and well-adjusted to decision-making. Employees can also share their expertise across various divisions, leading to the widening of their professional development. However, reporting to various managers lead to confusion. Failure to establish clear functions causes employees to get confused about their duties (Point Park University, 2019).

Flatarchy structure works well with startups or small organizations. This structure provide foundation for more decision making process since there is no bureaucracies or hierarchies involved. Also, this structure encourages innovation since employees are constantly motivated to suggest ideas. Just like other structures, flatarchy could be confusing and inconvenient, especially when everybody is involved in decision-making disagree (Point Park University, 2019).

Various structures influence modern businesses or companies in an organization. Factors including technology, social-cultural factors, among others, determine the company’s stability and uncertainty. The company’s success is also based on developing strategies that create and maintain a good inter-organizational relationship. Based on the basics of organizational structures, each structure has benefits and limitations, as discussed in the paper.

Allen, J. M., & Sawhney, R. (2015). Chapter 2: Open Versus Closed Systems.  SAGE Publications, Inc ,  9781483350707/ , 27–43.  https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/33001_2.pdf

Madinda, A. S. (2014). THE UNCERTAINTY OF ORGANIZATIONAL ENVIRONMENT IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.  International Journal of Emerging Trends in Science and Technology ,  1 (5), 774–782.  https://doi.org/ISSN 2348-9480

Point Park University. (2019, January 28).  4 Types of Organizational Structures . Point Park University Online.  https://online.pointpark.edu/business/types-of-organizational-structures/

The University of Kansas. (2018).  Chapter 14. Core Functions in Leadership | Section 7. Building and Sustaining Relationships | Main Section | Community Tool Box . Ku.Edu.  https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/leadership-functions/build-sustain-relationships/main

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  • Section 1. Organizational Structure: An Overview

Chapter 9 Sections

  • Section 2. Creating and Gathering a Group to Guide Your Initiative
  • Section 3. Developing Multisector Task Forces or Action Committees for the Initiative
  • Section 4. Developing an Ongoing Board of Directors
  • Section 5. Welcoming and Training New Members to a Board of Directors
  • Section 6. Maintaining a Board of Directors
  • Section 7. Writing Bylaws
  • Section 8. Including Youth on Your Board, Commission, or Committee
  • Section 9. Understanding and Writing Contracts and Memoranda of Agreement
  • Main Section

What is organizational structure?

Why should you develop a structure for your organization, when should you develop a structure for your organization.

By structure, we mean the framework around which the group is organized, the underpinnings which keep the coalition functioning. It's the operating manual that tells members how the organization is put together and how it works. More specifically, structure describes how members are accepted, how leadership is chosen, and how decisions are made.

  • Structure gives members clear guidelines for how to proceed. A clearly-established structure gives the group a means to maintain order and resolve disagreements.
  • Structure binds members together. It gives meaning and identity to the people who join the group, as well as to the group itself.
  • Structure in any organization is inevitable -- an organization, by definition , implies a structure. Your group is going to have some structure whether it chooses to or not. It might as well be the structure which best matches up with what kind of organization you have, what kind of people are in it, and what you see yourself doing.

It is important to deal with structure early in the organization's development. Structural development can occur in proportion to other work the organization is doing, so that it does not crowd out that work. And it can occur in parallel with, at the same time as, your organization's growing accomplishments, so they take place in tandem, side by side. This means that you should think about structure from the beginning of your organization's life. As your group grows and changes, so should your thinking on the group's structure.

Elements of Structure

While the need for structure is clear, the best structure for a particular coalition is harder to determine. The best structure for any organization will depend upon who its members are, what the setting is, and how far the organization has come in its development.

Regardless of what type of structure your organization decides upon, three elements will always be there. They are inherent in the very idea of an organizational structure.

  • Some kind of governance

Rules by which the organization operates

  • A distribution of work

The first element of structure is governance - some person or group has to make the decisions within the organization.

Another important part of structure is having rules by which the organization operates. Many of these rules may be explicitly stated, while others may be implicit and unstated, though not necessarily any less powerful.

Distribution of work

Inherent in any organizational structure also is a distribution of work. The distribution can be formal or informal, temporary or enduring, but every organization will have some type of division of labor.

There are four tasks that are key to any group:

  • Envisioning desired changes . The group needs someone who looks at the world in a slightly different way and believes he or she can make others look at things from the same point of view.
  • Transforming the community . The group needs people who will go out and do the work that has been envisioned.
  • Planning for integration . Someone needs to take the vision and figure out how to accomplish it by breaking it up into strategies and goals.
  • Supporting the efforts of those working to promote change . The group needs support from the community to raise money for the organization, champion the initiative in the state legislature, and ensure that they continue working towards their vision.

Common Roles

Every group is different, and so each will have slightly different terms for the roles individuals play in their organization, but below are some common terms, along with definitions and their typical functions.

  • An initial steering committee is the group of people who get things started. Often, this group will create plans for funding, and organizational and board development. It may also generate by-laws, and then dissolve. If they continue to meet after approximately the first six months, we might say they have metamorphosed into a coordinating council .
  • A coordinating council (also referred to as a coordinating committee, executive committee , and executive council ), modifies broad, organization-wide objectives and strategies in response to input from individuals or committees.
  • Often, one person will take the place of the coordinating council, or may serve as its head. Such a person may be known as the Executive Director, Project Coordinator, Program Director, or President . He or she sometimes has a paid position, and may coordinate, manage, inspire, supervise, and support the work of other members of the organization.
  • Task forces are made up of members who work together around broad objectives. Task forces integrate the ideas set forward with the community work being done.
For example, from the director of a coalition to reduce violence in a medium-sized city: "Currently, we have three operational task forces. Members of each have an ongoing dialogue with members of the coordinating council, and also with their action committees. The oldest was formed with the goal of eliminating domestic violence about fifteen years ago, when a local woman was killed by her husband. Then, after several outbreaks of violence in the schools a few years back, our group offered to help, and a second task force sprung up around reducing youth violence. We've just started a third, with the goal of increasing gun safety. "All of it is interrelated, and all of it applies to our mission of increasing the safety of residents of South Haven, as well as that of our visitors. But each task force is contributing to that mission in vastly different ways, with different objectives, and using different strategies. 'Cause, you know, the strategies you use to stop a ninth grader from bringing a gun to school just aren't the same as the ones you use to stop a 40-year-old man on unemployment from beating his wife."
  •   Action committees bring about specific changes in programs, policies, and practices in the sectors in which they work.
For example, the task force on domestic violence mentioned above has the following action committees: A government and law enforcement committee . Members include police officers, lawyers, a judge, and a state representative. Currently, they are trying to pass laws with stronger penalties for those convicted of domestic violence, especially repeat offenders. They are also training officers to be better able to spot an abusive relationship, and better able to inform a victim of his or her options. A social services committee . Members (who include representatives from most of the service agencies in town) work to assure that staff members know where to send someone for the resources he or she needs. They are also trying to increase the number of trained volunteer counselors who work at the battered women's shelter. A media committee . Members include local journalists, writers, and graphic designers. They keep the project and the issue in the public's minds as much as possible with editorials, articles and news clips of events, as well as advertisements and public service announcements.
  •   Support committees are groups that help ensure that action committees or other individuals will have the resources and opportunities necessary to realize their vision. Financial and media committees are examples of committees formed to help support or facilitate your work.
  • Community trustees , also known as the board of trustees or as the board of directors , provide overall support, advice, and resources to members of the action groups. They are often either people who are directly affected by the issue or have stature in the community. That way, they are able to make contacts, network with other community leaders, and generally remove or weaken barriers to meeting organizational objectives.
  • Grantmakers are another part of the picture. Grantmakers exist on an international, national, state, and local level and may be private companies and foundations, or local, county, state, or federal government organizations (for example, block grants given by the city would fall into this category).
  • Support organizations (not to be confused with the support committees listed above) are groups that can give your organization the technical assistance it needs.
  • Partner organizations are other groups working on some of the same issues as your organization.

Although this list is pretty extensive, your organization may only use two or three of the above mentioned roles, especially at the beginning. It's not uncommon for a group to start with a steering committee, ask others to serve as board members, and then recruit volunteers who will serve as members of action committees. In this broad spectrum of possibilities, consider: Where does your organization fit in? Where do you want to be?

Examples of Structure

So how can all of these pieces be put together? Again, the form a community group takes should be based on what it does , and not the other way around. The structures given are simply meant to serve as examples that have been found to be effective for some community-based organizations; they can and should be adapted and modified for your own group's purposes.

  A relatively complex structure

Example - The Ste. Genevieve's Children's Coalition The Ste. Genevieve's Children's Coalition is a relatively large community-based group. They have a coordinating council, a media committee, and three task forces, dealing with adolescent pregnancy, immunization, and child hunger. Each of the task forces has action committees as well. For example, the adolescent pregnancy reduction task force has a schools committee that focuses on keeping teen parents in school and modifying the human sexuality curriculum. A health organizations committee focuses on increasing access and use of the youth clinic. The media committee works to keep children's issues in the news, and includes professionals from the local television stations, radio stations, newspaper, and a marketing professional. The coordinating council is composed of the executive director, her assistant, the media committee chair, and the chairs of each of the three task forces. A board of directors has been invaluable in helping keep the coalition financially viable.

In diagram form, a complex organization might look like this:

Image depicting a complex organization showing a large circle entitled Community Trustees. Outside this circle are three smaller circles with bidirectional arrows leading to/from the larger circle: “Community members; Collaborators; Supporting Organizations (funders, TA orgs).” Inside the large circle is a small circle entitled Coordinating Committee. Four other circles connect to this central circle: Support Committees (e.g., financial, media) and three Task Force circles, each with smaller Action Committee circles connected to them.

And in diagram form:

Image of a diagram depicting Mid-size Structure. A large circle entitled Community Trustees contains three smaller circles: One Coordinating Council and two Action Committee circles connecting to it.

As smaller size means fewer people, these groups are usually less complex, as they have less need for a formal hierarchy and instead have governance that is consensus-based. A diagram of such a small group might look something like this, with each of the circles representing an individual member:

Image of a Small-size Structure with no text labels, just six circles interconnected to each other.

What type of structure should you choose?

First, decide upon the formality your organization will have. The following table, adapted from The Spirit of Coalition Building can help you make this first decision.

Organizational structure is something that is best decided upon internally, through a process of critical thinking and discussion by members of the group.

In your discussions, your answers to the following list of questions may guide your decisions.

  • What is your common purpose? How broad is it? Groups with broader purposes often have more complicated structures, complete with many layers and parts, than do groups with more narrow purposes.
  • Is your group advocacy oriented or service oriented? Service organizations use "top down," one-person-in-charge structure much more often than do advocacy based groups.
  • Is your organization more centralized (e.g., through the work of a specific agency ) or decentralized (e.g., different neighborhoods working independently on the same problem)? A decentralized group might find a "top-down" structure inappropriate, as such a group often has several peers working together on an issue.
  • How large is your organization? How large do you envision it becoming? A very small organization may wish to remain relatively informal, while a community-wide group might require a more formal structure. A related question, with similar consequences, is:
  • How large is the community in which you work?
  • How old is your organization? How long do you envision it lasting? A group formed to resolve a single issue might not need a formal structure at all, while an organization with long-term goals may want something more concrete, with clearer divisional responsibilities and authority.
  • Is the organization entirely volunteer, or are there (or will there be) paid staff? How many? An organization with many paid staff members may find it more necessary to have people "in charge," as there are generally more rules and responsibilities for paid staff members, and thus, there must be more supervision in carrying out these roles.
  • Should yours be a new organization, or part of an existing structure? Do you really need to form a new structure, or would it be better to work within existing structures? Sometimes, your goals may be better met if you are part of (or linked with) another organization.

Structure is what ensures that your organization will function smoothly and as you intended. You should think about structure early in the development of your organization, but be aware that the type that fits best may change as your organization grows.

Online Resources

How to Develop an Organization Structure , by Tara Duggan, Demand Media, is an informational article on how to develop organization structure with a short step-by-step analysis.

It's All About the Base: A Guide to Building a Grassroots Organizing Program   from Community Catalyst.

Module 2: Organizational Structure , by Pathfinder International, is a concise manual describing pros and cons, together with suggestions for how one might change the organizational structure one has.

Print Resources

Berkowitz, W., & Wolff, T. (1999). The spirit of coalition building. Washington , DC: American Public Health Association.

Unterman, I. & Davis, R. (1984). Strategic management of not-for-profit organizations: From survival to success . New York, NY: Praeger.

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