Four Building Blocks

Organizing is an ongoing managerial process. Strategies can change, organizational environments can change, and the effectiveness and efficiency of organizational activity does not always measure up to what managers would like. Whether forming a new organization, tinkering with an ongoing organization, or radically altering the pattern of relationships at an organization, managers take four fundamental steps when they begin to make decisions about organizing:

(1) Divided the total workload into tasks that can logically and comfortable be performed by individuals or groups. This is referred to as the division of work.

(2) Combine tasks in a logical and efficient manner. The grouping of employees and tasks is generally referred to as departmentalization.
(3) Specify who reports to whom in the organization. This linking of departments results in an organizational hierarchy.

(4) Set up mechanisms or integrating departmental activities into a coherent whole and monitoring the effectiveness of that integration. This process is called coordination.

We can think of these four aspects of organizing work as the four ‘building blocks’ of organization. They are apparent even at your favorite fast food restaurant:

1. Work is divided between those who cook burgers and those who make fries, for example
2. The crew members who serve customers may be thought of as working in one department while those who cook may be in another department.
3. Some people report to other people and take orders and advice from other people. Servers who are in training are lower in the hierarchy than are assistant managers, for example
4. Cooks and servers at the drive up window coordinate orders by means of computer printouts and two way radios.

Let’s look at each of these building blocks in greater detail

Division of work:

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations opens with a famous passage on the specialization of labor in the manufacture of pins. Describing the work in a pin factory, Smith wrote, ‘One man draws the wire, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head. Ten men working in this fashion made 48,000 pins in one day. But they had all wrought separately and independently, each might at best have produced only 20 pins a day. The great advantage of the division of labor was that by breaking the total job down into small, simple, separate operations in which different workers could specialize, total productivity was multiplied geometrically. Today we use the term division of work rather than division of labor, reflecting the fact all organizational tasks, from manufacturing to management, can be subdivided.

How does the division of work increase productivity? The answer is that no one person is physically or psychologically able to perform all the operations that make up most complex tasks even assuming one person could acquire all the specialized skills needed to do so. In contrast, division of work creates simplified tasks that can be learned and completed relatively quickly. Thus if fosters specialization, as each person becomes expert in a certain job. And because it creates a variety of jobs, people can choose or be assigned to positions that match their talents and interests. Many people believe that the rise of civilization can be attributed to the development of specialization, which gave humanity the resources to develop art, science and education.

Job specialization also has its disadvantages. If tasks are divided into small discrete steps and if each worker is responsible for only one step, then alienation – the absence of a sense of control may easily develop. Karl Marx saw this kind of alienation as rooted in the class structure of society. As you know from your own experiences, boredom can be a byproduct of specialized tasks that become repetitious and personally unsatisfying. Researchers have found that absenteeism from the job can be linked to these negative effects of job specialization. We will survey two ways to overcome workplace alienation the techniques of job enlargement and job enrichment.

One company that is in the forefront of attempts to overcome the alienation and boredom created by assembly line work is Volvo of Sweden, which has abandoned traditional assembly lines and developed new, more flexible approaches, often based on teams. Volvo has gained international recognition for its new humanistic philosophy, emphasis on quality of work life, and creative adoption of technology to enhance employee productivity and satisfaction.