Organizations come in all shapes and sizes, with varying structures that meet their unique needs. Two common structures are functional and divisional, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Functional structure is a type of organizational structure in which employees are grouped based on their specialized functional area, while divisional structure is a type of organizational structure in which employees are grouped based on the products, services, or geographic locations they are responsible for.
Functional vs. Divisional Structures
|Functional Structure||Divisional Structure|
|Functional structure is a type of organizational structure in which employees are grouped based on their specialized functional area.||Divisional structure is a type of organizational structure in which employees are grouped based on the products, services, or geographic locations they are responsible for.|
|The focus is on specialized skills and expertise within departments.||The focus is on products, services, or geographic locations that each division is responsible for.|
|Communication within functional structure tends to be more vertical within departments.||Communication within divisional structure tends to be more horizontal across divisions.|
|Decision-making tends to be centralized in functional structure.||Decision-making tends to be decentralized in divisional structure, with more autonomy given to each division.|
|Functional structure can be less flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.||Divisional structure can be more flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances due to each division having its own goals and strategies.|
|Efforts can be easily coordinated within departments in functional structure.||Efforts can be more difficult to coordinate across divisions in divisional structure due to each division having its own priorities and goals.|
|In functional structure, employees are primarily accountable to their functional managers.||In divisional structure, employees are primarily accountable to their divisional managers.|
|Examples of functional structure include manufacturing companies, hospitals, and universities.||Examples of divisional structure include retail chains, multinational corporations, and government agencies.|
Overview of functional and divisional structures
In a functional structure, employees are grouped together based on their skills and expertise, while in a divisional structure, employees are grouped together based on their work tasks or product offerings.
Functional structures tend to be more efficient because employees with similar skills can work together on projects. This type of structure also allows for better communication and coordination between departments. However, functional structures can be inflexible and may not be able to adapt quickly to changes in the market or business environment.
Divisional structures, on the other hand, tend to be more flexible and responsive to changes. This is because each division is responsible for its own products or services, so it can make decisions quickly without having to coordinate with other departments.
Divisional structures also tend to promote innovation and creativity, as each division has more autonomy to experiment with new ideas. However, divisional structures can be less efficient than functional structures because there may be duplication of effort between divisions.
Similarities between the two structures
- Both types of structures involve grouping people and resources together in order to achieve specific objectives.
- In both cases, individuals are typically assigned to specific teams or units that are responsible for specific tasks or projects.
- Both types of structures can be quite rigid and bureaucratic in nature. This means that there can be a lot of rules and regulations governing how work gets done in both types of organizations. This can often lead to a lot of inflexibility and red tape, which can make it difficult for employees to get their work done in a timely and efficient manner.
- Both can be quite hierarchical in nature. This means that there is a clear chain of command, with each individual having a specific role to play within the organization. This hierarchy can often make it difficult for employees to openly communicate with one another, as they may feel like they need to go through their direct supervisor in order to get things done.
Advantages and disadvantages of each structure
Advantages of Functional Structure:
- Provides employees with clear roles and responsibilities within their specialized areas of expertise.
- Allows for in-depth knowledge and skill development within functional areas.
- Encourages standardization and consistency of processes within departments.
- Can be more cost-effective due to economies of scale within functional areas.
- Allows for easier communication and coordination within departments.
Disadvantages of Functional Structure:
- This can result in silos and a lack of cross-functional collaboration.
- This may lead to slower decision-making due to centralized decision-making.
- Can be less flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.
- This may lead to unclear accountability and responsibility for overall organizational goals.
- This can result in conflicts between functional departments.
Advantages of Divisional Structure:
- Allows for decentralized decision-making, which can lead to quicker and more effective decision-making.
- Encourages cross-functional collaboration and communication across divisions.
- Provides clear accountability and responsibility for specific products, services, or geographic locations.
- Can be more flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.
- Allows for each division to have its own goals and strategies, which can lead to greater innovation.
Disadvantages of Divisional Structure:
- This can result in duplication of resources and efforts across divisions.
- This may lead to conflicts between divisions and a lack of coordination.
- Can be less cost-effective due to the duplication of resources.
- This can result in less consistency and standardization of processes across divisions.
- This may result in unclear accountability for overall organizational goals.
Guidelines for deciding which structure is best
First, consider the size of your company and the industry you’re in. If you’re a large company in a complex industry, a divisional structure may be best. If you’re a small company in a simple industry, a functional structure may be more appropriate.
Second, think about what kind of growth you’re expecting. If you’re hoping to expand rapidly into new markets, a divisional structure will give you the flexibility to do so. If you’re expecting slower, more organic growth, a functional structure may be more effective.
Consider your company culture. If you have a very entrepreneurial culture where employees are given a lot of freedom to innovate, a divisional structure may be more conducive to that environment.
If you have a more traditional corporate culture where employees are expected to work within strict guidelines, a functional structure may be better suited to that atmosphere.
Key differences between the two structures
- Grouping of employees: In a functional structure, employees are grouped based on their specialized functional areas, such as marketing, finance, or operations. In a divisional structure, employees are grouped based on the products, services, or geographic locations they are responsible for.
- Decision-making: In a functional structure, decision-making tends to be centralized, with top-level managers making decisions for the entire organization. In a divisional structure, decision-making tends to be decentralized, with each division having more autonomy to make decisions.
- Communication and coordination: In a functional structure, communication and coordination tend to be more vertical within departments. In a divisional structure, communication and coordination tend to be more horizontal across divisions, which can lead to greater collaboration and innovation but also requires more effort to coordinate efforts across different units.
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Overall, it is clear that both functional and divisional structures have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as being similar in some respects. Both types of organizational structures can be effective for different organizations depending on the size, scope, and goals of the organization. So that businesses can make informed decisions about which type of structure best suits their particular needs. With these considerations in mind, companies can create an organizational structure that will help them reach their objectives more efficiently.