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Organizational Vision Prioritization in the Structural Frame

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1. Organizational Vision Prioritization in the Structural Frame By Oleg Nekrassovski Most organizations consist of units with specialized roles. This creates a problem…
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  • 1. Organizational Vision Prioritization in the Structural Frame By Oleg Nekrassovski Most organizations consist of units with specialized roles. This creates a problem when diverse units are required to work towards achieving a single goal/vision (Bolman & Deal, 2013). After all, all units are primarily tasked with focusing on achieving their unit goals, rather than the overall goals of the whole organization. This makes it difficult for organizations to prioritize their overall goals and optimally use their resources (Bolman & Deal, 2013). So, in an attempt to overcome such coordination and control problems, organizations frequently engage in vertical coordination and lateral coordination. Vertical coordination involves higher levels, of the organizational hierarchy, coordinating and controlling the work of lower levels, through the designation of authority figures at each level, through rules and policies, and through planning and control systems (Bolman & Deal, 2013). On the other hand, lateral coordination involves mandatory formal and informal meetings, task forces, employees tasked with coordinating the work of separate departments, matrix structures, and a variety of networks (Bolman & Deal, 2013). The organization’s structural imperatives can also affect the prioritization of its goals/visions. In fact, the determination of a firm’s strategy and goals is one common structural imperative. Also, a small, informally structured organization usually encounters no problems in prioritizing its goals/vision (Bolman & Deal, 2013). However, an organization’s complexity and formality increase with its size and age, leading to associated difficulties with goal/vision prioritization. Moreover, new information technology makes it possible for organizations to pursue visions, which, only a few decades earlier, seemed outside the realm of the possible (Bolman & Deal, 2013). This, quite naturally, has a strong effect on which visions are chosen as priorities. A number of structural dilemmas can also affect goal/vision prioritization in organizations. As organizations grow, they often become more internally differentiated, making it difficult to coordinate and control all of organization’s specialized units; so as to make sure that all the parts of the organization are engaged in the pursuit of the vision determined by its top-level management (Bolman & Deal, 2013). At the same time, the existence of gaps and overlaps, between the responsibilities of different organizational units, may make it difficult to get the whole organization to efficiently pursue a single vision; since some tasks will be performed twice, while other important tasks will be missed (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Similarly, if the assigned duties lack clarity, in the eyes of the employees tasked with performing them, then they are likely to be performed in a manner that would fit employees’ personal preferences, rather than focus on the pursuit of system-wide goals. Conversely, over-defined responsibilities may lead to an excessively rigid performance of tasks, on the part of the
  • 2. employees, even if such rigidity may undermine the organization’s overall goals/vision (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Mintzberg’s five structural configurations, that an organization may take, are also highly relevant to how well the organization will be able to accomplish its vision prioritization. Under Mintzberg’s simple structure, one or two people control all aspects of the organization and can easily engage in vision prioritization without any difficulties or opposition. However, because leaders of such organizations are too close to day-to-day operations, they may be too distracted by immediate problems to seriously think about long-range strategic issues (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Under machine bureaucracy, the big decisions are made in the headquarters, while day- to-day operations are governed by local managers and standardized procedures. As a result, company-wide visions may be unsuitable for being carried out by individual units; creating a constant tension between headquarters and local managers, and making quick, organization- wide vision prioritization difficult, if not impossible (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Under professional bureaucracy, few managerial levels exist between the top management and the large number of professionals working at the lowest levels of the organizational hierarchy, leading to a flat and decentralized structure. In fact, professional bureaucracy mostly consists of highly trained experts who are largely insulated from interference by the management (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Consequently, the limited control that exists relies heavily on indoctrination and professional training. Not surprisingly, such a structure makes it very difficult to make the whole organization pursue a single vision, put forward by the top management (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Under Mintzberg’s divisional form, most of the work is done by semi-autonomous organizational units (i.e. divisions); with division presidents being accountable only to corporate headquarters for specific results, often of purely financial nature, such as profits, sales growth, and returns on investment. As long as the divisions deliver satisfactory results in these assessment categories, they are relatively free to do whatever they want; while the headquarters assess market opportunities and allocate resources to various divisions accordingly (Bolman & Deal, 2013). However, headquarters always want more oversight over divisions; while divisional managers try to avoid control by the headquarters. Moreover, when goals are not easily measurable and/or vertical information systems are not very reliable, the headquarters may lose touch with the various divisions (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Thus, it is clear that divisional form is not very conductive to vision prioritization, unless the vision is of a general and easily measurable nature (e.g. profits, sales growth, or returns on investment) and can be pursued through a wide variety of means. Finally, adhocracy is a loose, flexible organizational structure, mostly held together through lateral means. Adhocracies lack clear authority structures, clear objectives, or non- contradictory assignments of responsibility, and thrive in conditions of turbulence and rapid
  • 3. change (Bolman & Deal, 2013). And it is argued that adhocracies succeed precisely in such environments because exploration, self-evaluation, and learning are more likely to be fostered by incoherence and indecision, than by clear objectives, decisions, and structures (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Obviously, setting specific goals and visions for an adhocracy, is an exercise in futility, unless the proposed goals/visions are unrestrained exploration and experimentation. References Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T.E. (2013). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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