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Structural Analysis


Disciplines > Change Management > Diagnosing change > Structural Analysis

Organizational | Process | Motivational | Social | Physical | See also


There are many structures within an organization which influence people's behavior. 'Function follows form' is a relevant saying. If you can identify these structures and their effects, then you may better understand the current behavior of people.

You can also plan to change the structures as a part of creating people change. This can be a subtle method of creating change. Rather than announce change and create training, you simply change the structuring forces.

Organizational structure

The hierarchical organization with its 'scalar chain of command' is at the heart of most organizations. In the basic hierarchy, everyone has one manager. Other forms include matrices, where you may have two managers and team pools, where you may have a different manager for each project.

The effect of organizational structure is to focus people on the requirements set for them by their managers. Thus, if the managers are not properly focused or if they have personal issues that impinge upon their subordinates, those subordinates may well not be working to the best advantage of the company.

Organizations are often structured for ease of management rather than easy of delivery. Thus marketing people may work in the marketing department and so on, rather than product delivery teams. This can lead to 'functional silos' where people get distracted by local issues and can easily lose sight of the end customers.

Process structure

People work within processes, which may stretch across functions or be contained within them. When they have a process focus, then they will seek to follow the process as it is defined.

If the process is set up incorrectly, then they will merrily follow it into potentially destructive ways. This can be a 'safe' option, where, if they are blamed, they can claim to be 'only following the process.'

Motivational structure

There are deliberate structures in the organization that seek to motivate people. Typically, this is based on financial reward. A common saying is, 'Show me how I am paid and I will show you how I act.' People will thus act to maximize bonuses, even at the cost of customer satisfaction (as many sales people might admit).

Other benefits also motivate, including pensions, pay bands, ranking structures, and so on. Even the attention and praise of managers can distort behavior, as people spend ages on showy powerpoint presentations and seek to promote themselves over others.

Social structure

Overlaid across the organization is another invisible structure which is made up of the many and complex social relationships across the company. People can be friends, enemies, lovers and rivals, all of which will affect how they behave, not the least when they have the choice of helping one person over another.

Social leaders typically have more influence over others and are listened to more. There are also information structures, where info-hounds gather and selectively share knowledge. Social groups may form around sport and leisure activities as well as functional subjects.

Physical structure

The  physical structure of the organization can have a very significant effect on the social structuring. When you sit near other people, you are more likely to be friends with them.

Communication is usually inversely proportional to distance. You will chat regularly with your next-door neighbor. You will say 'Hi' to people as you pass them in desks nearby. If you have to go to another floor, you may recognize people but not know their names. Another building, another site, another country -- all levels of separation increase psychological distance from other people.

Although technology can reduce communication distances, it has only a limited effect -- in the end, you just can't beat eyeballing other people.

See also


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