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Discuss the Impact of Organizational Structure and Culture on Human Resources Development

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According to Marcouse et al (1999:250), modern management thinking has moved away from the view that there is one organizational structure which will suit all organizations at all times. It is definite that what is the best structure for one organization will depend on many factors. Organizations have vastly different environments in which they operate. Some organizations are relatively stable and some are changing.

Organizations also differ greatly in size and objectives. According to Handy, within all organizations, a culture develops which greatly influences the type of structure which is appropriate. This culture can be thought of as an organizational ideology, a set of norms or a way of life, which is persuasive. The culture at Share-World Open University is different from an army officer training school. Similarly, working in a research department at a giant pharmaceutical company is likely to be very different from working as a foreign exchange dealer in Standard Bank. Indeed, within large organizations, there will be different cultures. Some organizations have got a culture which is very formal, where there are strict dress codes, where punctuality is all important and staying late is normal. In some organizations everything operates through committees; rules and procedures are very important. In other more informal organizations individuals rather than committees make decisions. Initiative rather than conformity or obedience is usual. Employees are judged on the results rather than adherence to precedent or established practice.


According to Mullins (2007) who quoted Handy, we can identify four different sets of circumstances or 'cultures' and each requires different organizations.


When is this best structure for the organization? The formal hierarchy is best suited to the role culture. In this culture the role, or job description, is often more important than the individual who fills it.

Performance over and above the job description is not required. Tasks are clearly defined, as are accountability and responsibility. There is a clear chain of command. Position power is the major source of power in this culture. Other features of the role culture are:

* Individual departments or functions can be very strong and self-contained, guarding their own power;

* Roles will be precisely defined using clear job descriptions and definitions of authority;

* There are set ways of communicating such as standard memos with defined circulation lists and 'usual channels', for instance, subordinate to superior and no-one else.

* Decision making will be based largely on precedent.

* There are likely to be many layers of hierarchy in a bureaucratic structure in which there is a narrow span of control.

In this type of structure managerial functions will need to be strongly coordinated at the top by senior management. Then, if the department does their job, as laid down by the rules and procedures, the results should be as planned.


According to Marcouse et al (1999:251), the task culture is job or project oriented. Its accompanying structure can be best seen as matrix. This type of structure attempts to avoid the major disadvantage of the formal hierarchy in which only senior levels of management communicate and work together. In a matrix, the functional departments still exists, but people from those departments have the flexibility to work on the projects with or for other departments. For instance, the development of a new product would require product research and design, consumer and market research, as well as production and management accounting. So a researcher, whose line manager is the head of research, may spend half their time working on a project run by the head of new products. Those who favour formal hierarchies would worry about an employee having two bosses. Japanese firms such as Toyota have proved however, that working together on projects saves time and therefore allows new products to be brought to the market more quickly. The matrix management is likely to work best in business with a relatively wide span of control and relatively few layers of management hierarchy. The structure aims to bring people and resources together and let them get on with particular particular tasks. Individual capability rather than age or formal status determines people's standing in the task culture. Rules, procedure and precedent are less important. Authority flows more from competence on the task rather than place in the hierarchy.


The task culture is appropriate where flexibility, creativity and teamwork are important qualities. It is based on expertise of a well trained professional staff and its strength lies in its adaptability. The different teams across the functions can be combined as appropriate to meet the needs of different projects. This adds interest and variety to working life and can therefore as a motivator to employees.


According to Marcouse et al (1999:252), the drawbacks of the task culture include that much of the power and influence in a matrix system lies at quite low



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