Guide To Mechanistic Organization (With Definition and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses choose organizational structures based on how they want to manage their operations. Many companies that have formal work environments and strong employee oversight may prefer a mechanistic organizational approach, which allows them to manage the business in a hierarchal manner.

Understanding how mechanistic organization works can help you determine if this structure fits your company. In this article, we discuss what a mechanistic organization is, its benefits and challenges and tips for creating this structure within your company.

Related: Complete Guide To Bureaucratic Organizations (With Example)

What is a mechanistic organization?

A mechanistic organization is an organizational structure with centralized authority, divisions between departments and specialized roles that work independently of each other.

Companies that have mechanistic structures run similarly to bureaucracies in which an established chain of command manages business operations. Types of businesses that often implement this type of structure include:

  • Finance

  • Healthcare

  • Education

  • Government

  • Law

When represented visually, mechanistic organizations have a triangular or pyramid structure, and the higher your position on the triangle, the more authority you have. Typically, most company roles comprise entry-level and non-supervisory positions, which make up the bottom section of the triangle.

The next, smaller section of the triangle includes their immediate supervisors, followed by senior supervisors. This pattern continues to the top of the pyramid, which includes executives such as the chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

Related: 11 Types of Organization Structure and Design

Benefits of a mechanistic organization

A mechanistic organization's defined business model can make it easy for each employee to understand the expectations associated with their individual roles and may allow management to make company decisions based on predictability. Other benefits of a mechanistic organization include:

  • Stability: Mechanistic organizations have operations that remain the same over time, so employees and the company may benefit from consistency.

  • Low task differentiation: Each role has a defined structure with designated tasks, so employees can clearly understand their managers' expectations.

  • Low costs: Mechanistic organizations center on cost efficiency. By appointing qualified people to specialized positions, companies can keep supervisory costs low.

  • Effective management: Their structured rules and regulations may allow mechanistic organizations to manage their companies, departments and individual employees effectively.

  • Communication channels: Mechanistic organizations have a fixed process for communication in which each individual presents concerns to their immediate manager. If their manager needs help with the issue, they can bring it to their manager, and the cycle continues until they resolve the issue.

Related: How To Plan an Effective Organization Restructure

Challenges of a mechanistic organization

Having a workspace where staff and managers can collaborate and create a system to help mitigate common issues may help your business maintain and achieve its goals. Here are some challenges companies that use this structure may face:

  • Lack of adaptability: The structured design of mechanistic organizations can make it difficult for companies to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, but they can prevent or minimize the impact of these circumstances by having backup operational plans in place.

  • Autocratic leadership style: The autocratic management approach of mechanistic organizations limits input from non-managerial employees. Supervisors can lessen the negative impact of this leadership style by continuing to make final decisions but allowing employees to offer feedback about them.

  • Limited autonomy: Innovative employees may find mechanistic organizations difficult to work in because of their role rigidity, but many employees who work in these types of companies have jobs that are more analytical than creative.

  • Large workload: Because individual employees work independently, some may have to manage large workloads on their own. Management can prevent this by ensuring they maintain adequate staffing levels.

  • Turnover: Companies have a higher chance of keeping employees who feel valued. Mechanistic organizations can decrease turnover by offering public praise and rewards for employees who perform well.

Tips for building a mechanistic organization

Here are some tips you can use to create a mechanistic organizational structure within your company:

Ensure all team roles are clear

A distinctive feature of a mechanistic organization is its structured roles. Every member of each team, from entry-level to executive, has set duties based on their role within their teams and the company. Mechanistic businesses can create clear divisions between departments, each with its own management team.

For example, an accounting department may include entry- and mid-level professionals, managers who supervise small groups and department supervisors who manage their department's operations. Defining roles may enable each individual to help the organization by completing their specific duties.

Maintain an organizational chart

Many companies maintain organizational charts, also known as "org charts," which provide employees with a visual representation of the company's layout. They start with the highest level executive in the company and branch downward from the most senior to the least senior employees. Org charts have an important role in mechanistic organizations because these types of businesses have structured roles with a lack of overlap.

Read more: Creating Organizational Charts of Companies

Create an employee handbook

After you determine your company's policies regarding employment, benefits, pay structures and other rules for employees, creating a handbook allows you to refer to them when necessary.

Remember to read your employee handbook regularly and check for sections that may need updating. You might also consider asking new employees to sign an agreement in which they acknowledge they have read the handbook and agree to abide by it to ensure consistency across the organization.

Read more: Creating an Employee Handbook

Hold regular department meetings

As each individual within a mechanistic organization usually works independently, they only report to direct managers when necessary. Consider holding regular department meetings so employees can keep each other informed of progress within the team.

Similarly, having managerial meetings gives supervisors the chance to inform each other and the company executives of the activities within each department.

Establish a communication platform

People in mechanistic organizations rarely work in groups, so they may find communicating with their colleagues and managers challenging unless they have a dedicated communication platform. Digital solutions, such as messaging services and videoconferencing systems, may allow all members of an organization to stay in contact with each other, especially if the company allows remote work. These programs can also make it easier for human resources to distribute company-wide information, such as newsletters and policy updates.

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