What Is an Organic Organizational Structure? (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Although managers can choose to apply any organizational structure, it's important to consider the company's size, type of business, and employee preferences. One of the most effective organizational structures managers can adopt is the organic structure. Understanding the benefits and challenges of organic organizational structures can help you decide if it's suitable for a company. In this article, we answer "What is an organic organizational structure?", differentiate between organic and mechanist structures, discuss its benefits, outline its challenges, review helpful tips, and highlight examples.

What is an organic organizational structure?

You may wonder, "What is an organic organizational structure?". It's a flexible workplace structure characterized by a flat reporting process. Flat or horizontal communication methods imply that employees interact with various colleagues, managers, and departments and share responsibilities in teams and groups to ensure they complete their tasks successfully. This organizational structure encourages managers to develop communication channels between all levels in the organization and more adaptable workspaces to create a positive and welcoming environment that values employees' opinions.

Related: Definition of an Organization Type (With a List of Benefits)

What is the difference between organic structure and mechanistic structure?

The mechanistic structure is the opposite of the organic structure. It's more traditional, and the communication in this working environment is specific and vertical. This implies that an entry-level employee in this organizational structure typically communicates with and reports to a direct manager. In addition, the chain of communication continues upward until it reaches the employee with the highest authority, typically the chief executive officer or president.

Mechanistic structures define the decision-making authority of managers at different levels and create fixed communication methods. In contrast, organic structures support an engaging and more open work community where employees make decisions together and share ideas. Each structure has different requirements and uses, but organic structures typically flourish in creative and smaller organizations.

Related: Mechanistic Structure: Benefits, Challenges, and Tips

Benefits of organic organizational structures

Here are some benefits a company can enjoy if you implement an organic organizational structure:

Creates opportunities for creativity

Implementing an organic organizational structure creates multiple opportunities for employees to innovate solutions and demonstrate creativity. This structure allows employees to collaborate at various levels, brainstorm new ideas for problems in the workplace, and hear the opinions and perspectives of employees in other departments. In addition, an organic organizational structure allows employees to work on a flexible schedule. Here, employees can develop new strategies to improve productivity rather than follow traditional methods.

Fosters open communication

Implementing an organic organizational structure allows for open communications with managers and other employees. Open communication helps employees perform effectively, collaborate, and improve productivity. In addition, creating an environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help can provide quicker access to relevant information rather than having to wait for information from managers before performing duties.

Builds better employee relationships

As an organic organizational structure encourages employees to collaborate and communicate across levels and departments, employees may build stronger relationships, improving cooperation and teamwork. In addition, a collaborative environment creates a rewarding work environment as people with different experiences and perspectives come together to solve problems. It also helps employees build an extensive network and helps them work together in the future.

Related: Definition of an Organization Type (With a List of Benefits)

Improves employee satisfaction

Organically structured organizations help improve employee satisfaction as employees feel valued and have more freedom to perform their responsibilities. In companies where employees feel valued and heard, they can perform their duties with confidence and trust in their abilities. This helps them enjoy their daily activities and their overall work environment. In addition, working in an organically structured environment eliminates the pressures associated with rigid work environments, such as attending regular meetings and understanding hierarchies.

Optimizes formal procedures

An organic organizational structure helps optimize the formal procedures in the company. Although certain procedures, like training protocols and filing human resource (HR) complaints, are essential to running a company, there may be some operational processes you can optimize to improve efficiency and productivity. Optimizing and changing the formal procedures in your workplace can encourage employees to work with more flexibility.

Challenges of an organic organizational structure

Although implementing an organic organizational structure in the workplace may have various benefits, there are some challenges associated with this structure. Common challenges you may experience when implementing this structure in the workplace include:

Lower productivity

Implementing an organic organizational structure in an environment where employees may find it difficult to agree with each other or work together may lower productivity. In addition, you may experience lower productivity levels if you implement this structure too quickly without providing employees with enough time and resources to understand how to use it effectively. It's important to have a clear goal you want employees to work toward before implementing this system.

Excess ideas

When working in an organically structured organization, you may have too many ideas during the decision-making process. As this structure allows all employees to state their perspectives and ideas, there may be conflicting ideas and viewpoints on the best approach to problems. You can solve this problem by guiding brainstorming sessions and meetings with clear objectives to ensure everybody focuses on the same goal. In addition, you can categorize similar ideas together and choose the most appealing idea or group of ideas.

Slower decision making

The decision-making process of organically structured organizations is typically slower than in other organizations. This is because the organic organizational structure emphasizes getting input from every employee and hearing different perspectives. Although this strategy may be beneficial when making decisions for the whole company, it may not be ideal for emergencies or solving pressing issues affecting the company's success. When implementing the organic organizational structure, you can make provisions for emergencies or scenarios where executives or upper management employees can make decisions in the company's best interests.

Related: Functional Organization Structure: Pros and Cons

Less regulated work

Less regulated work typically helps employees work creatively and reduce the stress of working according to strict quotas and deadlines. Despite its advantages, it may be challenging when employees fail to meet deadlines or produce high-quality work, affecting the company's profit margins or overall success. Consider establishing stable expectations for employees alongside their flexibility. For example, you can give more freedom to employees who have worked with the company for a particular number of years and have a record of performing well.

Related: What Is a Professional Organization? (With Tips)

Slower adaptation for new employees

The flexibility of organic organizations may make them unpredictable and challenging for new employees. New employees typically spend some time learning about their roles and the company. Learning how to perform their duties and their manager's expectations may be challenging while navigating an organic organizational structure. As a manager, you can make the transition easier for new employees by assigning mentors to them and providing training and onboarding activities to ensure they understand the company's structure.

Related: What Is Organizational Design and Structure and Why Is It Important?

Tips for managing an organic organizational structure

Some tips to consider when managing a company with an organic organizational structure include:

  • Consider the size of the company. It's important to consider the size of the organization before implementing an organic organizational structure. Consider the necessary resources, such as experienced managers and specific training, to help guide employees through the transition.

  • Create stable procedures when necessary. Certain stable formal procedures, such as HR procedures, are necessary to run an organization. It's useful to create processes and procedures for break times, filing relevant paperwork, and for other regulated business areas to ensure employees have the necessary resources and feel comfortable working effectively.

  • Provide employee feedback regularly. Employees are essential assets and necessary to the success of a business, so it's necessary to give them reviews and surveys regularly on their performance. Conducting regular employee reviews can help you create an organic structure that suits all employees, increases productivity, and improves job satisfaction.

  • Be clear about work expectations. Ensure you clearly communicate your expectations to employees and team members to allow them to produce quality output while working within these expectations. In addition, communicating expectations can help manage stress, as employees can set actionable goals and understand the criteria for judging their performance.

Related: Understanding a Matrix Organizational Structure

Organic organization structure examples

Organizations in different industries can use the organic organizational structure if employees can successfully perform their responsibilities within this structure. Businesses that typically perform well with this structure have employees with various skill sets who can perform different tasks when necessary. Examples of organizations using the organic organizational structure include:

  • Technology companies: Information technology companies that hire software engineers typically use the organic organizational structure to ensure they get perspectives and ideas from employees with different skills and backgrounds.

  • Law firms: In most law firms, lawyers typically collaborate and work together on various cases and help clients using individual skills and expertise, although senior lawyers may have more authority.

  • Small businesses: Owners and managers of small businesses in most industries can create an organic organizational structure, as they have a few essential employees to perform all business duties and make decisions.

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