Functional Organizational Structure: Pros and Cons


 — April 15th, 2022

Functional Organizational Structure: Pros and Cons

A functional organizational structure is a team structure that groups employees into different departments based on areas of expertise. This type of structure is one of the most common types in business, especially in larger companies, where groups of employees are organized according to the function they perform.

Examples of departments in a functional organization structure include a sales department, a marketing department, a production department, a human resources department, etc.

In this vertical management structure, employees of each department only communicate with one another and their leaders. Generally, the heads of these specialized units will report to the top management of the company.

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What is the importance of team structure?

Functional organizational structure is just one type of team structure but all businesses, regardless of size, need some sort of structure to operate successfully. Companies without a set organizational structure have problems implementing business policies and operating productively.

An organizational structure outlines how certain activities are directed to achieve the goals of an organization. Furthermore, it provides clear roles, routines and ranks for workers, all of which help to improve team coordination.

Without a formal organizational structure, employees may find it difficult to know who they should be officially reporting to within the company and which managers are responsible for what.

To improve team structure within an organization, leaders must carefully consider the correct structure model to implement. This will depend on a variety of factors, like the size of the business, the number of employees, and even the company’s values.

What are the advantages of a functional organizational structure?

  • Training is easier - A functional organizational structure facilitates the training of employees as it focuses on a limited set of skills. For example, personnel in the marketing department are given training in marketing issues only.
  • Coordination is established - As all the employees working within a department are specialists in that area, coordination is more straightforward.
  • Higher productivity levels - Employees within a functional organization structure have a unique skill set that allows them to perform to a high standard within their individual departments. This expertise leads to increased levels of productivity companywide as employees can carry out their tasks effectively, with little supervision from their superiors.
  • Skill growth - This structure has several departments made up of small teams. Within these groups, knowledge is easily passed along by experienced managers to their team members, resulting in an enhanced skill set for all members involved.
  • Specialization - It allows employees to develop their individual skills rapidly as they consistently complete the same tasks and functions in their individual departments.

What are the disadvantages of a functional organizational structure?

  • Segregation - Having departments populated by employees specializing in specific areas means members of different teams do not get the opportunity to meet face to face. This lack of communication and sharing of perspectives can be harmful for the progression of the business eventually.
  • Delay in decision-making - With a lack of communication and coordination between separate departments, there can be major delays in the decision-making process when a dilemma requires the involvement of more than one specialist.
  • Conflict of interest - Each department has different and sometimes conflicting targets, and these contradictions can often lead to disharmony and conflict within the company.
  • Decreased morale - In the long run, employees tend to feel bored and lose morale when their work becomes monotonous. Furthermore, morale can be affected when management changes procedures and modifies the work environment without taking input from employees on the ground.
  • Narrow scope - Without experienced guidance and extra information from managers, employees from individual departments may possess little knowledge of how their roles relate to the business's overall goals and objectives.

Other examples of organizational structures:

Hierarchical team structure

A hierarchical structure is an organizational structure which has in place a direct chain of command from the top of the company to the bottom. It is a pyramid-style structure where each level of management has clear lines of responsibility and control.

Companies with a high number of employees will typically adapt a hierarchical structure to better accommodate their size and clarify reporting relationships.

Flat team structure

In contrast, a flat organizational structure incorporates few (if any) levels of management between employees and the highest level-managers within the company. The absence of middle managers means employees are supervised less, offering them increased involvement in the decision-making process.

The removal of excess layers of management also works to improve the coordination and speed of communication between employees.

Matrix team structure

A matrix structure is a combination of two or more types of organizational structures. In this structure, employees usually have dual reporting relationships - to their functional manager as well as the project manager. If a business needs to manage multiple projects, then a matrix structure is the most effective to have in place.

A matrix organization structure reorganizes companies to maximize their productivity and uses two chains of command to make them more dynamic.

Divisional team structure

The divisional structure is an organizational structure made up of separate business units or divisions. This structure is best suited to businesses that have a large scope with bases of operation dispersed nationally or internationally.

Typically, businesses with a divisional organizational structure have many employees who need to be grouped into divisions that relate to their specific services or products.

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Key Takeaway

Every business needs structure to grow and be successful. A functional organizational structure is one example of a team structure in which a business is divided into separate departments based on their specific function such as marketing, sales, finance, and HR.

When employees who have similar skills and experiences are grouped together, it makes production more efficient and of a higher quality, along with allowing employees to perfect their skills. However, leaders must be careful and understand that this type of structure can also result in segregation and a lack of coordination between the separated units.

Additional types of organizational structures include divisional, flat and matrix structures. Determining the correct structure to implement within an organization will depend on a company’s size, preferences, and specific set of needs.

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