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Organization Design: Beyond the "Mafia" Model
The importance of modifying organization design to fit changing competitive conditions better is a familiar theme to those who work within the management field. Increasingly, organization development (OD) practitioners and management consultants are being asked to participate in improvement projects that focus on organization structure and related management systems. As a result, there is growing interest in a variety of design orientations, models, and principles that support the redesign process. This is in contrast to past decades, when team development and other interpersonally oriented processes were emphasized.
The recent interest in design is not confined to manufacturing and production-related organizations. Service organizations, marketing and sales divisions, and support and staff departments are also examining the ways in which they organize and reassessing the effectiveness of their designs.
By contrast with other areas of OD, in which theory often lags behind practice, the field of organization design has advanced rapidly on academic fronts. But few managers or consultants are aware of the leading design approaches or know much about how these approaches have worked when implemented. Thus the manager and the OD practitioner often find themselves without a map or a design theory to guide them, and as a result, they have little choice but to rely on conventional wisdom and experience.
This article reviews four leading design theories and contrasts them with a traditional "Mafia" model. These four approaches are on the cutting edge of organization theory and are used by academic-based and private consultants with OD expertise.
Following a brief survey of the literature on organization design, we compare the four approaches, discuss their origins, and summarize their contributions to applied consultation. Finally, we outline issues concerning the consulting process that no model has addressed adequately, and we describe our own eclectic OD consultation process.
When management consultants work with organizations, they often encounter unique situations that challenge their theories, assumptions, values, and ethics. This has increasingly been true during the recent wave of mergers and downsizing programs in industry. The following scenario has become all too common:
Under the watchful eye of security guards, Tom Campbell hurriedly emptied his desk and dumped old appointment books, files, and papers into a Bekins storage box. Sweating profusely, he paused, paralyzed by fear and an eerie feeling. This was not happening to him!
The day had begun like any other, but he had known this day would be different. It was the day that Chalmers unveiled the new organization plan.
Six weeks ago Chalmers had become president of Dynamic Toy Company, a stumbling industry giant. Chalmers was there to rescue the company and put it back into the black. He hit Dynamic Toy running, bringing in management consultants to assess the organization. The consultants were straightforward, and they echoed Chalmer's reassuring words: Dynamic Toy was basically healthy; there was no need for new management; a modest "organization realignment" would occur; staff affected by the realignment would be reassigned.
Tom bought the whole story. He was a 15-year veteran of Dynamic Toy, one of the company's first sales people, and the youngest …