Five Waves of Organizational Structures LO26546

From: Peggy Stuart (
Date: 04/19/01

Replying to LO26508 --

Hi all:

First, what are we talking about when we talk of organizational

"The purpose of an organizational structure is to facilitate the flow of
information within the organization in order to reduce the uncertainly in
decision-making and to integrate organizational behaviour across the
organization" (Mainiero, L. and Tromley, C. (1994) Developing Managerial
Skills In Organizational Behaviour (2nd Ed.) Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ.)

Traditionally, organizational structures are best communicated via an 'org
chart', which denotes working relationships and formal communication
channels. They could have been flattened or decentralized. Organizational
structures could be based on product, function, geographical location or a
mixture of each.

That being said and as to the idea of 'waves' of organizational
structures. Structural changes are not linear; do not come in waves - you
do not necessarily progress from functional to decentralized to matrix as
your organizational grows and ages. For example, an organizational
structure that was a matrix may revert to a decentralized, such as after a
significant reduction in unit size after a geographic split.
Organizational structures are decided on the basis of maximizing
organizational effectiveness i.e. enhancing its capacity for change.

Second, I agree there are five stages of organizational growth. Mainiero
outlines the supporting research quite well in the above mentioned text.
(Teresa, let me know if you want a summary of this research)

However, to assume LOs are linked to stages of growth is leading to a
developmental perspective to learning organizations, or one where
organizations represents a phase or stage of an organization's development
(DiBella, A. and Nevis, E. (1998) How Organizations Learn: An Integrated
Strategy for Building Learning Capability. Jossey-Bass, Inc. San
Francisco, CA.).

To imagine that there is such a link would suggest that organizations in
their infancy stage have less of a chance of becoming a LO than one in its
mature stage. I don't believe that this suggestion is in line with Peter
Senge's work, which DiBella says is of the normative perspective. This
perspective holds that learning, as a mechanism to foster organizational
improvement, does not occur through chance or random action but through
the development and use of specific skills. Without disciplined action or
intervention, organizations fail to learn due to the many forces that
constrain learning. This perspective presumes that organizational life is
not conducive to learning. Barriers to learning exist due to the
fundamental, conflicting ways in which individuals have been trained to
think and act to discovering and using solutions to organizational
problems (DiBella, 1998).

I realize this does not help you very much Teresa. Perhaps if you told me
how you conceptualize a LO, I could be of more assistance?



Peggy Stuart, MBA
Centre for Curriculum, Transfer and Technology
"The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it is opened"


Peggy Stuart <>

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