A NOTE TO THE READER
What could be more important to the effective functioning of our organizations—from repair shops to automobile companies, police forces to national governments—than the design of their structures? Yet what do we really know about such design?
Ironically, we know a great deal, but not in a form accessible to those people who must create such designs—managers, staff specialists, and consultants. The vast literature on organizational structuring, much of it based on systematic empirical research, has largely escaped the practitioner, for two reasons. First, it is mostly contained in articles and books written in an academic style, for other researchers. Those practitioners willing to work through the jargon found that the orientation of such writings was more on what is than what should be; in other words, on what takes place in organizations rather than on how to design an effective organization. Second, despite the vastness of the literature and its many available insights, what it lacked was synthesis. The practioner could find these insights in no one place; he or she virtually had to wade through the entire range of literature to find out what it had to say. And even then, the synthesis was left to the reader. Contradictions abound in the research findings, with little real reconciliation even attempted. So whoever had the patience to go through all this literature was apt to emerge more confused than before he or she began.
In the mid-1970s, I set out to try to order this literature, to extract its key messages and—above all—to synthesize them into an integrated picture of the structuring of organizations. The result of almost three full years of effort was a book by that title, published by Prentice-Hall in 1979. That book containted 512 pages of very small type, but it satisfied my intentions: to synthesize the research literature on organizational structuring (it was subtitled, "A Synthesis of the Research") and to address the issues of what makes an organizational design effective. Since I had in mind as readers not only students and practitioners but also my academic colleagues, the book contained a thorough referencing of the evidence for each of the findings, sprinkled generously with quotations from the literature. The arguments were, in other words, supported as much as possible, so that the reader could also use the book as a reference text. Hence the 512 pages. Despite that length, the book has had a good deal of success, both from critics and in the marketplace, especially in university course adoptions.
In 1981, Ted Jursek of Prentice-Hall's Professional Book Program suggested that I redo the book to make it more convenient for practitioners. Essentially, this meant reducing its length considerably by removing most of the references and quotations while maintaining the basic line of argument, and tilting its orientation more toward the issue of designing an effective organization. This suggestion I took up enthusiastically, because I felt that the time I invested in the original book would be in good part wasted if the messages did not get directly to practitioners on a large scale. I was further encouraged by the reactions I had received from those practitioners who did read through the 512 pages, and by comments I received on my Harvard Business Review article, "Organization Design: Fashion or Fit?" a summary of the main points of the book, which appeared in the January-February 1981 issue. Clearly, if the full message was to get through to many busy practitioners, then something was needed between a 14-page summary article and a 512-page fully referenced book.
Hence Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations. I trust that I have accomplished the objective: to present and, more important, to synthesize the messages from the research on what it takes to design an effective organization, presented in a form that will be read by managers, staff specialists, and consultants who are concerned with the structuring of organizations. The one thing I had to sacrifice was the referencing that supports each of the arguments. But the reader who requires this information, or who wishes to probe into the research that underlies any of the arguments, can easily find what he needs in The Structuring of Organizations: Л Synthesis of the Research (Prentice-Hall, 1979). The general outline of that book (if not the specific chapters) follows this one, and it contains a very thorough index as well as a bibliography that numbers over 300 entries. That volume can be considered a companion to this one by those readers who wish to probe more deeply. (The only important addition to this book is some material at the end of the last chapter, on pages 294-96.)
In terms of how this book should be read, I like to think of it as a kind of banquet. I do not mean to comment on the quality of its offerings, only on the manner and order in which they must be taken. They cannot be consumed on the run, as a snack, nor can they be sampled at random, as at a buffet table. They are meant to be taken in the specific order presented.
Chapter 1 is designed to whet the reader's appetite, and also to prepare the palate for the offerings that follow—a kind of hors d'oeuvre, if you like, Two important concepts are introduced in Chapter 1 that serve as the foundation for all that follows.
In Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5, the reader is given a taste of the main flavors of organization design, what we call the design parameters. This part of the book is largely in the form of analysis, not synthesis; that is, we are concerned here with delineating the basic elements of structural design, not with combining them. But by the end of Chapter 5, the reader should find these flavors beginning to blend. Chapter 6 also represents analysis, putting these design parameters into the context of various situa-tional factors. In effect, a different set of flavors is introduced in this chapter, flavors that themselves will be seen to blend with the others.
Chapters 7-12 are the pieces de resistance of this banquet. Here, all the flavors of the earlier chapters are fully blended into five main dishes, called configurations, forming our synthesis. They are labeled Simple Structure, Machine Bureaucracy, Professional Bureaucracy, Divisionalized Form, and Adhocracy. In a sense, the first six chapters prepare the palate for the next six, which are the real reasons for this banquet. Chapter 7 introduces our configurations, each of which is then discussed in one of the subsequent chapters. A final chapter, entitled "Beyond Five"—a kind of digestif—considers some important relationships among our five configurations and looks beyond them.
Note that the main points of the book have been highlighted in boldface type (like this); taken together, these serve to summarize the central line of argument. This has not been done to encourage scanning— the meat between these bones is required for a full appreciation of these offerings—but simply to emphasize and summarize the key conclusions for the reader.
So there you have it. Bon appetit!