Organizational structure can inhibit or foster creativity and innovation. The problem with organizational structure though, is that it is resultant of many factors, including history, organic growth, strategy, operational design, product diversity, logistics, marketing, client base, supplier base and so forth. Therefore, what managers need, are not recipes for complete structural change, but insights into the properties of fostering structures that can be adapted into the existing structure.
To start, it is useful to analyse the preferred structures against the not so preferred. There are many definitions of types of organizational structure, but one example is:
a) Mechanistic structures (generally not preferred) – includes centralised control and authority, clearly defined tasks, vertical communication links, obedience to supervisors, rigidity and inflexibility.
b) Organic structures (generally preferred) – decentralisation of authority, tasks loosely defined, horizontal communications, greater individual authority, flexible, adaptable.
Experience shows that the above can be misleading. For example, flat organisations are generally preferred and hierarchical ones not preferred, however, even flat organisations are in reality hierarchical.
Importantly, if we have a mechanistic structure, what factors allow us to move in the right direction without wholesale change?
Some answers include:
a) Direct communication links to decision makers.
b) Communication and information flow between departments.
c) Tangible progression of ideas from problem to solution, product development to commercialisation.
d) Creative teams working outside but linked into the organization, whose culture, processes etc diffuse into the existing structure.