Organisation design

The way work is organised shows who is responsible for what, ensures job roles – and the people who fill them – align with organisational objectives, and will have an effect on communications, relationships, and engagement: e.g. traditional command and control structures and management styles do not lend themselves to engagement.

In the entrepreneurial or SME model, employees deal directly with ‘the boss’. But once an organisation grows and ‘the boss’ no longer has regular, direct contact with employees a layer of management is usually introduced.

The traditional (or bureaucratic) approach was to place such managers in charge of functions such as production or finance, and there could be layers within the function, each representing a level of responsibility or authority.

Many organisations now choose to organise themselves by division (product or type of customer) rather than function, each division with its own functional teams (production, finance etc.). While this allows organisations to expand quickly – it is easy to create new product teams – specialist roles, such as marketing or communications, are duplicated.

Matrix model

Where quick responses to change are needed, companies are adopting a matrix structure, established along traditional functional lines but enabling new teams to be assembled from various functions when a specific project, such as a new product, is introduced.

A matrix structure gives people greater opportunities to use their talents but it blurs lines of accountability – employees can find themselves with two bosses when they report both to their functional leader and the team leader. Once the need for the team has passed it will be disbanded with individuals drawn into another team or taken back into the functional structure.

Whatever way the organisation is structured, HR and line management have a role to play in deciding on the right communication system. Where there is a traditional approach, communication methods need to make sure that information is cascaded both upwards and downwards through layers of management, but where it is structured by divisions, communication needs to be horizontal, with an emphasis on teamwork.