Organic Model of Organization

An Organic Model of Organization or organic organizational structure is characterized by an extremely flat reporting structure within an organization. In this organization, the span of control of the typical manager encompasses a large number of employees. Interactions among employees tend to be horizontally across the organization, rather than vertically between layers of managers and their direct reports. Because interactions are mostly among employees within a flat reporting structure, decisions are more likely to be made by consensus among groups of them, rather than by individual managers. There also tends to be a larger amount of information sharing among employees, rather than the concentration of information at the upper levels of an organization that is more commonly seen in traditional top-down reporting organizations. There may be a large amount of cooperation between departments, rather than the silo effect that occurs in more hierarchically-organized businesses.[1]

Organic organizations have a low degree of formality, specialization and standardization. Their decision making is decentralized and their activities are well-integrated. The organic model is usually flat, and it usually uses cross-hierarchical and cross-functional teams and possesses a comprehensive information network that features lateral and upward communication in addition to downward communication. Organic organizations look a lot like boundaryless organizations. They allow for employees to cultivate more ideas and be more creative because the business is not as rigidly structured. Organic structures are used in dynamic, unstable environments where the business needs to quickly adapt to change, as the structure gives the organization the flexibility to deal with fast-paced environmental change and many different elements. A good example of an organization that uses an organic structure might be a consulting firm. A consulting firm responds to customer issues as they come up, and those issues change with the business environment. Consulting firms want to respond to change quickly, so by choosing an organic structure they’re able to be nimble and address their customers’ needs.[2] The term Organic Organization was created by Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker in the late 1950s.

Organic Model of Organization
source: Lumen Learning

Mechanistic Vs. Organic Model of Organization[3]
Organization design generally follows one of the two basic models described in Figure below: mechanistic or organic. A mechanistic organization is characterized by a relatively high degree of job specialization, rigid departmentalization, many layers of management (particularly middle management), narrow spans of control, centralized decision-making, and a long chain of command. This combination of elements results in what is called a tall organizational structure. The U.S. Army and the United Nations are typical mechanistic organizations.

In contrast, an organic organization is characterized by a relatively low degree of job specialization, loose departmentalization, few levels of management, wide spans of control, decentralized decision-making, and a short chain of command. This combination of elements results in what is called a flat organizational structure. Colleges and universities tend to have flat organizational structures, with only two or three levels of administration between the faculty and the president.

Factors Influencing the Choice between Mechanistic and Organic Structures
Although few organizations are purely mechanistic or purely organic, most organizations tend more toward one type or the other. The decision to create a more mechanistic or a more organic structural design is based on factors such as the firm’s overall strategy, the size of the organization, and the stability of its external environment, among others.

A company’s organizational structure should enable it to achieve its goals, and because setting corporate goals is part of a firm’s overall strategy-making process, it follows that a company’s structure depends on its strategy. That alignment can be challenging for struggling companies trying to accomplish multiple goals. For example, a company with an innovation strategy will need the flexibility and fluid movement of information that an organic organization provides. But a company using a cost-control strategy will require the efficiency and tight control of a mechanistic organization. Often, struggling companies try to simultaneously increase innovation and rein in costs, which can be organizational challenges for managers. Such is the case at Microsoft, where CEO Satya Nadella cut more than 18,000 jobs in 2014 after taking the helm at the technology giant. Most of the cuts were the result of the company’s failed acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business. More recently, the company eliminated additional jobs in sales and marketing (mostly overseas) as Microsoft shifts from a software developer to a cloud computing software delivery service. At the same time, Nadella is also trying to encourage employees and managers to break down barriers between divisions and increase the pace of innovation across the organization.

Mechanistic Vs. Organic Model of Organization
source: Victor Cultice

See Also


  1. Definition - What Does Organic Model of Organization Mean? Accounting Tools
  2. Explaining Organic Model of Organization Lumen Learning
  3. Mechanistic Vs. Organic Model of Organization Lawrence J. Gitman, Carl McDaniel, Amit Shah, Monique Reece, Linda Koffel, Bethann Talsma, and James C. Hyatt