Difference Between Organizational Structure and Design

Two important factors in organizational development are organizational structure and design. These two components help define the corporate culture, expectations and management style. When the structure and design of an organizational work together, they create a productive and efficient working environment where employees are motivated and customers are satisfied. People and tasks don’t get lost in the company as the structure and design ensure that everyone is taken care of and tasks are completed on time with accuracy.

Organizational Structure Definition

Lamar University defines organizational structure as “the formal system of task and reporting relationships that controls, coordinates, and motivates employees so that they cooperate to achieve an organization's goals.” The focus of developing organizational structure is on the actual processes and systems in place to create an efficient working environment.

Organizational Design Definition

Lamar University defines organizational design as “the process by which managers select and manage various dimensions and components of organizational structure and culture so that an organization can achieve its goals.” The focus of organizational design is on the management style or approach used by leadership to implement and support the organizational structure.

Types: Organizational Structure

Organizational structure can be divided into two categories: flat and high structures. Flat or horizontal organizational structures minimize the amount of levels in the organizational hierarchy. Flat organizations allow for feedback, free-thinking and the involvement of team members in decision-making processes. High or horizontal structures have many levels in the hierarchy and do not promote employee feedback or involvement. Leadership expects subordinates to follow directives without question.

Types: Organizational Design

Organizational design can use one of three, or a combination of, different styles: authoritative, democratic or delegative. Authoritative organizational design places all authority and responsibility in the hands of the leadership. Democratic design uses members on every level to accomplish goals and tasks. In this way, lower management is given free rein to govern its teams or department as it sees fit. Delegative design creates smaller teams that are self-governed and do not have to report to leadership.


To ensure a business is as productive as possible and that its organizational structure and design work together, the firm should have a communication consultant perform an assessment. A communication assessment gives an external source the ability to observe the organization, identify faults and provide suggestions on how to improve the business' structure and design.


About the Author

Nicole Papa has been a freelance writer since 2004 with a focus on SEO and Internet marketing. She has written for instinctmarketing.com and JOLT! Marketing. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in mass media communications, and from the University of Texas with an associate degree in theater performance.