Mechanistic & Organic Structure

Organizations are viewed as systems in need of control, authority and governance. A distinction is made between formal structure and governance structure, and a network perspective is adopted to investigate the correspondence between structures, and the functions these structures play within groups (Human Relations vol. 37). As a result, research carried out by Tom Burns and George Stalker in the 1960s resulted in the development and fruition of two distinct Organizational Structures – mechanistic and organic.

Organizations utilise the functions of mechanistic and organic structures, in order to manage and run establishments. In the past, organizations usually were mainly bureaucratically structured; which meant order and formal authority was the precipice of what establishments operated under. With the constant evolution occurring within societies, organizations recognised the need for revolution and that these two structures were needed to adjust and remain contemporary.

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The mechanistic structure is still usually used in collaboration with the bureaucratic structure. It is a management system based on formality and authority, carefully outlining what is to be done by an individual. Mechanistic structures are mainly for companies that operate in stable environments. Organizations that utilise this structure use authority and management as the focal point. Creativity, forward thinking and change is not needed within organisations that have this type of structure.

Colleges and universities are perfect examples of organizations with this implementation, for the main reason that rules and guidelines do not have to change to keep students coming to the institution. Education is a necessity for an individual to progress in today’s revolving world, especially higher education, therefore if an individual wants to be part of a specific educational facility, they must adapt and conform to the rules laid out by the educational organisation in order to be a part of it.

The college or university does not need to readjust their standards because students need to follow the standards in order to enrol and attend. Mechanistic structures believe upper management is capable of the decision making process, management instructions must be followed, communication and control must follow hierarchal routes and that tasks should be standardized and formalized. In relation to a university setting, mechanistic structures can be seen in students having to go through so many channels for an internal error to be rectified.

The bureaucracy or “red tape”, as it is commonly referred to, prevents from matters being rectified in a hasty manner. Though efficient from a historical and managerial standpoint, Fayol’s principles and the mechanistic model in general— can be the source of restriction and frustration for employees. The organic structure as opposed to the mechanistic has the least specialization and hierarchy functions. Employees in the organic organizations surveyed by Likert reported a higher level of satisfaction than their counterparts in mechanistic structures (Likert, 1981, p. 77). This structure focuses on open channels of communication, flexibility and all workers being equal. Employees within this structure have a more interaction with management and superiors, as well as in the decision making process. This gives a sense of belonging to those who are a part of any organization utilising these principles. An organic structure is usually the basis of an organization in an unstable and unsure climate. Adapting and being up-to-date with society is what is required of this organisational structure.

Decentralization allows lower ranking persons within the organization, to contribute to decisions. Dynamic environments, differentiation of tasks and little standardization are the concepts of the organic system. Google Corporation and fast food chains in The United States, such as Domino’s are examples of organisations that are formed on this basis. Developing new products and creative problems solving skills are encouraged to employees in these individual organisations. It must be noted though, that the Contingency theory claims that there is no single way for organisations to be structured.

Internal and external factors should determine the situation of a company. Therefore, when comparing the mechanistic and organic structures, the differences can be blatantly seen. Mechanistic structures seek to dictate and give rigid guidelines, which are looked at as being set in place to never be deviated from; whereas Organic structures give a more free-reign and hands on approach, this leads to a sense of belonging and team-work on a micro level, but causing growth and progression on a macro scale.

Organic structures build on a network of persons, with Mechanistic building on a network of tasks and positions. Mechanistic sees the organization as important but Organic sees the individual as holding important also. In conclusion, when carefully analysed it can be seen that each structure serves a specific purpose in co-relation to the organization it is being utilised within. Organizations which do not have a purpose for adaptation can implement the principles of Mechanistic, whilst those looking for innovation and change use the principles of Organic.


Structures of Organizational Governance — Human Relations March 1984 vol. 37 no. 3 207-223

Likert, R. (1981). System 4: A resource for improving public administration. Public Administration Review, 41(6), 674-678. Retrieved from

Hatch, Mary Jo. (2006). Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives. Oxford University Press.

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