Making Sense of Formal Structures and Systems

The structural frame,6 to use the language of Bolman and Deal, outlines an internal blueprint for how managers assign tasks, roles, and authority to produce products or services for the external marketplace. Wrapped around this structure are all the formal systems and processes that are designed to bring the structure to life and make it possible for the organization to deliver on its strategy and value proposition.

To make sense of structures, it is useful for change leaders to understand and be able to work with core concepts in this area. These are some of the more common elements:

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1. Differentiation: The degree to which tasks are subdivided into separate jobs or tasks. This concept deals with who does what and asks about the degree to which jobs are specialized and distinctive from one another on both the horizontal and vertical organizational axes. The differentiation of tasks is an early step in the life of an entrepreneurial adventure as it grows from one to two and then three people, with further differentiation of tasks as the number of employees increases. As organizations grow and add more people, tasks are divided and subdivided. Large organizations, as a consequence, are often characterized by highly specialized jobs, leading to silos of similar and separate tasks and job categories.

2. Integration: The coordination of the various tasks or jobs into a department or group. This is the extent to which activities are combined into processes and systems, pulling together all the disparate pieces of tasks and jobs into a coherent whole. Small organizations are typically structured in a simple and straightforward manner, organized by functions such as production, accounting/finance, sales and marketing, and human resources. As they grow and become more complex, executives look for more efficient and effective ways to group tasks and activities.

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