¶ … Structural Arrangements
In the modern world, lateral relationships is continually being used by organizations as a viable means of communication and influence flows make up the new structures in organizations. Lateral organizational structures differ greatly from vertical structures that are always designed around power dynamics and only allow for vertical flow of information, from the top managers downwards to the lowest ranking employee. Under such arrangements, the top leaders bear the responsibility of making key decisions that decide the fate of the firm. However, this is not ideal as there should be efficient and sufficient collaboration between workers in an organization. Workers strive to meet the same goals and the organization's vision so communication channels among employees should always be open. This can only be achieved under lateral structures. This paper, therefore, discusses the lateral structures that are used in organizations, the history of such organizational designs and their place in the contemporary organization. A summary of the weighty points will be presented at the end.
Organizations as Information Processors
Gish (2014) opines that the reason for the adoption of lateral organizational structures is to achieve superior products and to increase productivity through the collaboration and sharing of information between the departments in an organization. This structure is founded on sharing of information. It leads to better products as the team members work closely together to come up with ideas unlike in vertical arrangements where workers do their tasks independently. Lateral structures are designed in such a way that employees can present their thoughts and ideas without facing bureaucratic obstacles. Members of the organization openly communicate and the synergy of ideas leads to the development of superior products and services. That being said, several considerations have to be made to effectively run an organization using any organizational structure.
The collaboration between workers not only leads to better products but also helps the organization to have better clarity and achieve its vision faster. Clarity is achieved when employees are made aware of the goals of the firm and what roles each department is to play towards the achievement of such goals. With such openness, employees are motivated to be part of the success of the organization and thus contribute their part towards the accomplishment of such goals. The synergy ensures that everyone in the organization is laboring towards the achievement of set objectives. This is not what occurs under vertical structures as top management always decides the direction the company goes and determines its operations. Vertical structures are hugely bureaucratic and flow of information may be hindered because of the power dynamics and the various ego struggles at play. In a vertical system, communication channels are such that one can only officially communicate with the immediate superior or immediate subordinate. Most of the time information is only relayed from top management to the subordinates. This does not encourage discussion as the work of the subordinates is to execute what has been brought to the table by their bosses. A lateral system does however encourage sharing of ideas and insights between peers and between employees and bosses. The foundation of a lateral system is that individuals from all areas of specialization and departments are brought together in a project (Gish, 2014). This allows for the sharing of ideas drawn from several experienced people and this enhances the organization's performance.
Mohrman, however, posits that high technology companies have no option but to put in to consideration several pieces of information so as to effectively manage the inherent risks in high technology processes. It has been realized that in such set ups involving complex processes, coordination and goal-setting processes, rules and regulations must always be supplemented in other ways (Mohrman, Mohrman & Cohen, 1996, p.2). The creation of lateral structures and semi-autonomous teams help improve information flow. In such structures, information can always come from any direction and you stand a better chance of getting a response from the concerned authorities. Performance is therefore greatly improved as no information is lost in the communication chain as is present in a vertical structure. Clarifications can be easily made as authorities are very accessible and may also be...
This is especially true in the contemporary world where organizations appreciate that information flow is crucial in achieving the organization's goals. Several organizations are slowly adopting this and this has greatly enhanced productivity and efficiency. Generally, an argument that organization structure has considerable bearing on productivity and overall performance holds water.
Types of lateral Organizational Structures
Jay Galbraith who was a specialist in organization design came up with several types of organizational structures (Galbraith, 1977). He believed that for an organization to be highly effective there should exist lateral affiliations across the firm. These relationships would form the basis through which members of the organization communicated with each other. Such accessibility increased efficiency in various departments in the organization. The types of lateral organizational structures discussed by Jay Galbraith include: Mutual adjustments, task force, liaison role, team decision and managerial linking. They have different uses and have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Galbraith (1973) says that managers at the same level in the organization make joint decisions and so do not need to refer upwards. This is to mean that they have similar powers and can make independent decisions without referring to any superiors. These managers wield the same influence and so can independently make adjustments to the operations of their departments as long as it is geared towards the achievement of the organization's goals. This not only save time but may result in improved operations since heads of departments are at a better position to know what would work under the prevailing conditions. Comparing to a situation where a departmental manager would take instructions from a superior on what to do at his department, a lateral arrangement is seen to better serve the firm as the departmental heads are on the ground and know what would work best. Organizations consist of several departments led by departmental heads and they always have the same influence and authority in the firm. Such managers have the power to reach mutual agreements on what measures to take to drive the firm towards its goals and objectives. This is advantageous since these managers know what would work in their departments. Also, the interdependence between departments in an organization cannot be understated. Mutual agreements are therefore the best option and mutual adjustments give the managers a platform to achieve this.
This is another lateral structure and is aimed at the reduction of efforts towards coordination between interdependent departments (Galbraith, 1973).Two departments working on one project need a clear channel of communication. The liaison model allows for the formation of one channel that is not only reliable but time saving. This is achieved through the appointment of a liaison officer that will promote communication between the two departments. Since not every member of the separate departments can communicate with each other, the liaison officer bridges this gap and opens communication channels. He collects information from the concerned parties and relays it to the intended recipients. The liaison officer needs to be an effective communicator so that no information is lost. Information is easily relayed between the two departments without them having to see each other face-to-face. Ground rules to foster such communication will ensure quality communication. Sadly, the liaison officer may take advantage of the situation and pursue his or her own interests. This may lead to conflict as the decisions made in the organization may not be geared towards the advancement of the mission of the organization.
This structure is applicable in any organizational environment. When two or more departments in an organization need to reach a decision, representatives from the various departments come together to help in decision making. The decisions made are always informed since people with various expertises bring their views to the table. Group decisions tend to be better than individual decisions since they are seldom subjective and sentimental. Groups tend to look at the aims of the organization first before considering personal issues.
The decisions made are grounded on set rules set by participants and are therefore less likely to evoke conflict. Task force members also have the chance to ask other star players in their departments what the right course of action would be and this leads to a higher quality decision and eventually an improved organizational performance. The decisions made by task forces are adopted by all departments and this effectively eliminates hierarchy in the organization. People from all departments can share views and ideas that will in turn help the firm tackle challenges and grow. This encourages sharing of knowledge and in the contemporary environment where the operational environment has become very dynamic, learning is very crucial if organizations want to have an edge.
Taskforces can also be used in the development of policies in an organization or the investigation of problems. Experts…
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