Problem Solving

Lateral Structural Arrangements in Organizations

Andrew Sandon asked:

Lateral Structural Arrangements in Organizations

In order that the organisation can achieve its goals and objectives the work of individual members must be linked into coherent patterns of activities and relationships. This is achieved through the structure of the organization and the nature of relations. Decision about the future strategy of the organization are made by people and strategies are implemented by people. The success or failure of a current strategy will depend not only on decisions made in the past but also on how those decisions are being implemented now by people employed by the organization.

Lateral organizational arrangements include individuals of different departments and groups. These relations exist on the same organizational level and involve coordination and consultation. This type of arrangements depends upon the co-operation activities and of informal relations. It is therefore important to questions about who, how and why people are doing what they are doing and what they should do in strategic implementation. In short effective lateral organizational arrangements add value, manage the business and can contribute to strategic success but, conversely, they can make spectacular errors that can be very costly to the organization (Galbraith, 1995).

Lateral organizational arrangements depend upon the roles of each individual which implies the expected pattern of behaviours associated with members occupying a particular position within the structure of the organisation. It also describes how a person perceives their own situation.

The concept of ‘role’ is important not only to the functioning of groups but for understanding cooperation processes and behaviour. It is through role differenti¬ation that the structure of relationships among the mem¬bers are established. The development of lateral arrangements entails the identification of distinct roles for each of its members. Some form of structure is necessary for team-work and co-operation. The concept of roles helps to clarify the structure and to define the pattern of complex relationships within the group.

Lateral organisational arrangement belong to tThe formal relationships which can be seen as forms of role relation¬ships. These individual authority relationships determine the pattern of inter¬action with other roles. The role, or roles, that the individual plays within the group is influenced by a combination of: situational factors, such as the requirements of the task, the style of leader¬ ship, position in the communication network; and personal factors such as values, attitudes, motivation, ability and personality.

The role that a person plays in one work group may be quite different from the role that person plays in other work groups. However, everyone within a group is expected to behave in a particular manner and to fulfil certain role expectations. Also, the role relationships with members of their own group – peers, superiors, subordinates – the individual will have a number of role-related relationships with outsiders, for example members of other work groups, trade union officials, suppliers, consumers, and this patterns determine the nature of lateral organizational arrangements. This is a person’s ‘role-set’. The role-set comprises the range of associations or contacts with whom the indi¬vidual has meaningful interactions in connection with the performance of their role (Galbraith, 1995).

An important feature of lateral relations is the concept of ‘role incongruence’. This means that a member of staff should not be perceived as having a high and responsible position in one respect but a low standing in another respect. Difficulties with role congruence can arise from the nature of groupings and formal relationships within the structure of the organisation. Lateral organizational arrangements help to overcome problems which cannot be solved with the help of vertical relations only. “However, in many modern organisations where conventional communication structures either do not exist or are less formal, communication tends to be horizontal, between individuals and departments, rather than the upwards or downward flow assumed by so many to be the normal case” (Ball, 2001).

Decentralization principle is important in a large corporation, which became the central tenet of so much business practice. The need to co¬ordinate strategic planning from the centre to ensure longterm growth for the company, while allowing the indi¬vidual units and their managers to get on with day-to-day tactics are also play the crucial role. “The personal relations existing among members of an organisation which are not represented by the “blueprint” constitute informal organisation or informal relationships. Informal organisation plays as important a part in functioning of social organisation as formal organisation” (Formal & Informal relations, n.d.).

lateral organizational arrangements are achieved when the various HR strategies cohere and are mutually supporting. This can be attained by the process of ‘bundling’ or ‘configuration’. If a deliberate attempt to ‘bundle’ is made, this process will be driven by the needs and characteristics of the business. In this very case lateral organizational arrangements could be described the process of ensuring that strategies are integrated with or ‘fit’ business strategies. The concept of coherence could be defined as lateral organizational arrangements – the development of a mutually reinforcing and interrelated set of policies and practices. Lateral organizational arrangements are chiefly about ensuring that the firms has the skilled, committed and well-motivated workforce.

Lateral organizational arrangements are closely connected with functional features of work. The word ‘functional’ is used to indicate major aspects or departments of the organisation such as research, production and marketing. Differentiation describes ‘the difference in cognitive and emotional orien¬tation among managers in different functional departments’ with respect to: the goal orientation of managers, for example the extent to which attention was focused on particular goals of the department; the time orientation of managers and relation to aspects of the environment with which they are concerned, for example longer-term horizons, or short- term horizons and problems requiring immediate solutions; the interpersonal relations of managers to other members, for example a managerial style based on concern for the task, or on concern for people relationships; and the formality of structure.

It is sometimes suggested that in many organisations the responsibility for employee relations still lies with the line managers who are often sceptical or even hostile towards personnel ideas and techniques, and who frequently reject the concept of an employee relations policy because it hampers their work and limits their flexibility. If line managers are left to handle industrial relations issues for themselves, the pres¬sures of production are likely to lead to ad hoc and contradictory decisions. If a per¬sonnel policy is introduced to promote consistent decisions on industrial relations issues, its effectiveness may depend on granting authority to the personnel depart¬ment to override the natural priorities of line managers (Galbraith, 1995). “Rather than increasing hierarchies, they support the minimizing of vertical structures and the flattening of hierarchies, creating lateral roles and relations. The decision making processes become decentralized and there is a decrease in formalization” (Complex Organizations, n.d.).

As with other aspects of the personnel function it is important that line man¬agers are involved, at least to some extent, with employee relations. But there must be good communications and close consultation with the personnel department. There must be teamwork and a concerted organisational approach to the manage
ment of employee relations. This is made easier when to
p management, who retain ultimate responsibility for the personnel func¬tion, take an active part in fostering goodwill and co-operation between departments and with official union representatives.

Top management should agree clear terms of reference for both the personnel manager and line managers within the framework of sound personnel policies. “By creating lateral connections, the information in the organization is allowed to flow more directly. The communication system would be an informal one. This can be achieved through liaison roles and task forces” (Complex Organizations, n.d.).

The purpose of lateral organizational relations is contributed to a nationwide restructuring of corporations, with the multi-divisional form of organization becoming the standard for large industrial firms producing multiple products in multiple markets. He was one of the first management theorists to perceive the importance of creating a strategic plan for a business before framing its organizational structure (Galbraith, 1995).

In general lateral thinking is the generation of new ideas and the escape from old ones. Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way and creativity comes into every aspect of manag¬ing a business not only innovation but information systems, communications, finance, marketing, advertising and promotion, labour relations, problem solving, planning, design, R&D and public relations.

According to Ball: “Traditionally, the structure and therefore the communication process is based upon a hierarchy of individual departments, although more and more organisations now see the product and the market as more fundamental to structure than individual departments” (Ball, 2001).

The lateral organizational arrangements is a part of the generality of management. The personnel manager, as a separate entity, operates in terms of a ‘functional’ relationship, that is as a specialist adviser on personnel matters and on the implementation of personnel policies through all departments of the organi¬sation. It is the job of the personnel manager to provide specialist knowledge and services for line managers, and to support them in the performance of their jobs.

In all other respects the personnel manager’s relationship with other managers, supervisors and staff is indirect: that is, an advisory relationship. It is the line managers who have authority and control over staff in their departments, and who have the immediate responsibility for personnel manage¬ment, although there will be times when they need the specialist help and advice of the personnel manager. If the personnel function is to be effective there has to be good teamwork, and co-operation and consultation between line managers and the personnel manager. In this case, “High-quality internal training programs not only give people the skills they need, but also send the clear message that you care about people’s career development and are willing to invest in them as individuals” (HRM guide, n.d.)

The lateral organizational arrangements offers the best hope for long-term business pros¬perity, and he concentrates on the principle that the salaried manager’s role is critical. As managers receive power and authority through their offi¬cial roles, so their careers become increasingly technical and professional. One could use lateral thinking for five per cent of the time and vertical thinking for the other 95 per cent, operating the systems alternately.

The significance of the distinction between jobs and roles is that in the new process-based organisation, horizontal processes (which may have been defined in a business process re-engineering exercise) cut across organisational boundaries. Managements are beginning to regard their organisations in some fundamentally different ways. Rather than seeing them as a hierarchy of static jobs, they think of them, as dynamic processes.

Some members may have the opportunity to determine their own role expectations, where, for example, formal expectations are specified loosely or only in very general terms. Opportunities for self-established roles are more likely in senior positions (Galbraith, 1995).

Given the possibility that different demands of the environment are characterized by different levels of uncertainty, then it follows that individual departments may develop different structures. At the organisational level the detailed involvement of the work activities of organizational several departments, available time, and the need for specialisation suggest that the personnel manager has a prominent role to play. The ager is the main executor of personnel policies but acting in consultation with, and taking advice from, line managers.

Lateral organizational arrangements are connected with coordination and consultation. Line managers are on hand to observe directly the performance of their staff. They will actually see, and be directly affected by, for example, lateness of staff, unsatisfactory work, insufficient training, low morale, staff unrest, or poor planning of work duties and responsibilities. As an element function, personnel is an integral part of any managerial activity. The extent to which the personnel function is devolved to line managers is a decision for top management, and is likely to be influenced by the nature and characteristic features of the particular industry or organisation.

Separate units of differ¬ing size, location and mix of skills, means of necessity the personnel function is decentralised and prime responsibility has to be with line management.

An understanding of the capabilities of individuals and groups terms of attitudes, abilities and skills, as well as an understanding how individuals relate one to another, is an important part of the preparation and development of strategy. At the same time there has been a deterioration in lateral relations in many places, and a failure to introduce changes in work methods necessary for effective competition and organisational effectiveness. Personnel departments as such are clearly not to blame for these developments much more guilty are those line managers at the highest level who have opted out of their most important function, that of managing people.

Members may not always be consciously aware of these informal expecta¬tions yet they still serve as important determinants of behaviour. The psychological contract implies a variety of expec¬tations between the individual and the organisation. These expectations cover a range of rights and privileges, duties and obligations which do not form part of a formal agreement but still have an important influence on behaviour.

At the departmental or unit level the individuals might assume a promi¬nent role for day-to-day personnel matters, with the personnel manager as adviser, and if necessary as arbitrator. They would be more con¬cerned, at least in the first instance, with the operational aspects of personnel activities within their own departments. For example: the organisation of work and allocation of duties; minor disciplinary matters; standards of work performance; safety; on-the-job training; communication of information; and grievances from staff . On-line communication process can reduce waste of time for solving these problems (DeSanctis, Monge, 1998).

Within lateral organizational arrangements many role expectations are prescribed formally and indicate what the person is expected to do and their duties and obligations. Formal role prescriptions provide guidelines for expected behaviours and may be more prevalent in a ‘mechanistic’ organisation. Formal role expectations may also be derived clearly from the nature of the task. But not all role expectations are prescribed formally. There will be certain general conduct, mutual support to co-members, attitudes towards superiors, means of communicating, dress and appearance.

According to lateral organiza
tional arrangements it is made easier when top managemen
t, who retain ultimate responsi¬bility for the personnel function, take an active part in fostering goodwill and harmonious working relationships among departments. Top management should agree clear terms of reference for individuals within a framework of sound personnel policies. Within this framework the personnel function can be seen as operating at two levels: the organisational level and the departmental level.

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