Mechanistic Vs. Organic Organizational Structure

by Chirantan Basu; Updated September 26, 2017
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In "Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems," authors Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker developed the theory of mechanistic and organic systems in 1961 to understand which organizational structure fits best in different change and stability conditions.

Conditions

A mechanistic structure is suited to stable operating conditions, while an organic structure is suited to changing conditions characterized by unforeseen events.

Tasks

In a mechanistic structure, such as in a government bureaucracy, the tasks and responsibilities are usually well-defined. Tinkering with process technicalities tends to be more important than accomplishing objectives. In an organic structure, such as in a high-technology firm, tasks are continuously redefined and there is usually a common effort to solve problems. In mechanistic structures, control and authority are defined by rigid hierarchies. In organic structures, they are more dispersed.

Communications

In mechanistic structures, communication channels tend to be vertical (i.e., subordinate to superior) and there is often an insistence on loyalty and obedience. In organic structures, there is more lateral communications through informal networks. A commitment to advancing the organizational objectives is more highly valued than loyalty and obedience.

About the Author

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Chirantan Basu has been writing since 1995. His work has appeared in various publications and he has performed financial editing at a Wall Street firm. Basu holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Ottawa and holds the Canadian Investment Manager designation from the Canadian Securities Institute.

Photo Credits

  • process flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com