Reading Elliot Jacque’s piece on the role of hierarchy in our society made me delve into deeper thinking about the subject. As a student in the United States, the bureaucratic form of hierarchy is the default standard when I come to think of any organization. You need somebody at top to make the biggest and most important decisions, with several layers underneath them dispersing the work. I think Jacque’s makes a good point when he says we don’t need a new, flatter structure, but an understanding of how managerial hierarchy works. The problem is to find a way to make it work efficiently for the first time in its entire history. I was surprised that over the course of 3,000 years he believes hierarchical structures have been largely ineffective, yet no successful alternative has arisen to replace it. People are employed individually not in groups, so each individual must take on their own responsibility. I am a firm believer that in order to make hierarchies function, it is essential to place accountability on getting work done. Overall, I agree with Elliot that there are cracks and problems with the system, but it is still vastly superior in terms of productivity and making businesses run relatively smoothly and effectively.
After reading chapter 10, I have come to understand that successful innovation within a firm is highly dependent on its structure. There seems to be no exact formula to foster innovation, and many trade-offs exist when determining an organization’s structure. For example, a large firm has the resources to invest heavily in R&D, which one may think is the key to success, but it comes with disadvantages such as bureaucracy and groupthink. Smaller firms benefit from the ability to be more decentralized, and are not bogged down by several codified procedures and hence promoting flexibility for each department/employee to come up with the next great thing. The structural dimensions of the firm most keen to influence both innovation and efficiency include formalization, standardization, and centralization. Like the example above, each of these dimensions come with both advantages and disadvantages making it difficult to choose amongst them. I personally think organic structures provide the best environment for creativity and innovation because they have low formalization and standardization allowing for a free flow of ideas within the company due to the latitude given to employees. This is true because most innovation arises from experimentation and improvisation. Ambidextrous organizations seek to provide both a mechanic and organic structure, which may prove to be highly effective.