Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems
(Burns, Stalker)

Knowledge Center

   

Adjusting organization forms to appropriate conditions. Explanation of Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems of Burns and Stalker. ('61)

Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Forum
  3. Best Practices
  4. Expert Tips
  5. Resources
  6. Print

Through their Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems, Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker have provided a way to understand which organization forms fit to specific circumstances of change or stability. In their highly influential work "The Management of Innovation", they provide the following characteristics of Mechanistic vs. Organic Systems:


 

Mechanistic Organization Form and Management System

Organic Organization Form and Management System

Appropriate Conditions

Stable.

Changing.

Distribution of tasks

Specialized differentiation of functional tasks into which the problems and tasks facing a concern as a whole are broken down

Contributive nature of special knowledge and experience to the common task of the concern.

Nature of Individual task

The abstract nature of each individual task, which is pursued with techniques and purposes more or less distinct from those of the concern as a whole: i.e., the functionaries tend to pursue the technical improvements of means, rather than the accomplishment of the ends of the concern.

The "realistic" nature of the individual task, which is seen as set by the total situation of the concern.

Who defines tasks or refines tasks

The reconciliation, for each level in the hierarchy, of these distinct performances by the immediate superiors, who are also, in turn, responsible for seeing that each is relevant in his own special part of the main task.

The adjustment and continual redefinition of individual tasks through interaction with others.

Task scope

The precise definition of rights and obligations and technical methods attached to each functional role.

The shedding of "responsibility" as a limited field of rights, obligations and methods (problems may not be posted upwards, downwards or sideways as being someone else's responsibility).

How is task conformance ensured

The translation of rights and obligations and methods into the responsibilities of a functional position.

The spread of commitment to the concern beyond any technical definition.

Structure of control, authority and communication

Hierarchic, Contractual.

Network, Presumed Community of Interest.

Locating of knowledge

Reinforcement of the hierarchic structure by the location of knowledge of actualities exclusively at the top of the hierarchy, where the final reconciliation of distinct tasks and assessment of relevance is made.

Omniscience no longer imputed to the head of the concern; knowledge about the technical or commercial nature of the here and now may be located anywhere in the network.

Communication between members of concern

Vertical communication; i.e., between superior and subordinate.

Lateral communication; i.e., between people of different rank, resembling consultation rather than command.

Governance for operations and working behavior

Instructions and decisions issued by superiors.

Information and advice rather than instructions and decisions.

Values

Insistence on loyalty to the concern and obedience to superiors as a condition of membership. Commitment to the concern's task and to the "technological ethos" of material progress and expansion is more highly valued than loyalty and obedience.

Prestige

Greater importance and prestige attaching to internal (local) rather than to general (cosmopolitan) knowledge, experience, and skill.

Importance and prestige attach to affiliations and expertise valid in the industrial and technical and commercial milieux external to the firm.


Book: Tom Burns, G.M. Stalker - The Management of Innovation -


Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Forum
  How are Organizations Talked Into Existence?
Nelson Phillips and Cliff Oswick mention in an article (Organizational Discourse: Domains, Debates and Directions, 2012) that organizations are 'talked into existence'. I was wondering what this sentence meant.
For example, if we use the status ...
     
 
  Is a Hospital a Mechanistic or an Organic Organization?
How would you characterize a hospital as an organization in terms of Burns & Stalker’s typology?...
     
 
  Closed and Open Systems in an Organization
In organizations, there must be a time for open and a time for closed system.
Can these two co-mingle with one another? When is the right moment?...
     
 
  Measuring Organizational Stability
How can we measure organizational stability?...
     
 
  Factors Causing Organizational Stability
What are the factors effecting organizational stability?...
     
 
  What is Organizational Stabiltity?
What is organizational stability? Can you give some definition of organizational stability?...
     
 
  Are Organic Organizations More Effective then Mechanistic Organizations?
I think organic organizations are more likely to be effective than mechanistic ones....
     
 
  Community Development and Organising
Are community development and organising allies or rivals?...
     
 
  Aspects of Organizational Philosphy (Dimensions)
Design a method for measuring the organizational philosophy of an organization. What would the various dimensions in it be?...
     
 
  A way of guiding thinking
Any theory is a way of guiding thinking. It is not totally the same with the down-to-earth. It is the abstract of realities. An organization in the real worid is always a combination....
     
 
  No stationary organization
There is no 'stationary' organization; they are all changing in terms of technology, people and professions, market and products, but most importantly, we are all (organizations) changing as the world is moving. The organic system is suitable for sma...
     
 
  Mechanistic Variant: Reduce the Variables
Just because the mechanistic form is widespread that does not mean it is the most effective form for our environment. I suggest another dynamic, equally powerful: people strive to reduce the variables in their environment to constants. They do this...
     
 

Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Special Interest Group


Special Interest Group

Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Education & Events


Find Trainings, Seminars and Events


Best Practices - Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Premium
  Obvious or not true after all?
I was reading over this summary of the organic-mechanistic typology of Burns and Stalker, and at first sight it seems simple and logical: the best way to organize a company is contingent upon its environment in the following way:
If the environm...
     
 

Expert Tips - Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Premium
 

Structure your Organization at the Edge of Chaos

Although chaos theory was discovered decades ago, it only has emerged in recent years as a model for explaining the chaotic business environment.
...
Usage (application): Organizational Development
 
 

Resources - Theory of Mechanistic and Organic Systems Premium

Organizations as Organisms

This presentation briefly explains a range of management theories that are related to seeing organizations as organisms:
1. Organisational Needs ...
Usage (application): Overview of Management Theories Related to Organizations as Organisms
 

Organizations and Structures

Good presentation on Organizational Design.
Author: Michael Crandall.
First of all the concept of “organizations” is explained in detail, wi...
Usage (application): Organizational Structure, Departmentalization, Centralization, Decentralization
 

Self-organising social change

The aim of this paper by Christian Fuchs is to outline some foundational aspects of a theory of self-organising social change. Synchronous social self...
Usage (application): Society, self-organization
 

Introduction to Network Organizations

Presentation about Network Organizations. The presentations explains its importance, its supporting factors and compares network organizations with ot...
Usage (application): Organizational Forms, Network Organization, Virtual Organization, Communities of Practice
 

Brief Overview of the Informal Organization

Presentation that elaborates on the concept of informal organization. The presentation includes the following sections:
1. Informal Organizations...
Usage (application): Informal Organization
 
 

News

Mechanistic Systems Theory
     
 

News

Organic Systems Theory
     
 

Videos

Mechanistic Systems Theory
     
 

Videos

Organic Systems Theory
     
 

Presentations

Mechanistic Systems Theory
     
 

Presentations

Organic Systems Theory
     
 

More

Mechanistic Systems Theory
     
 

More

Organic Systems Theory
     

Compare with Mechanistic and Organic Systems:   Change Phases  |  Organization Chart  |  Contingency Theory  |  Five Disciplines  |  Six Change Approaches  |  Core Group Theory  |  Business Process Reengineering  |  Kaizen  |  Change Management  |  Dimensions of Change  |  Organizational Learning  |  Gestalt Theory  |  System Dynamics  |  Intellectual Capital Rating  |  OODA Loop  | Levels of Culture  |  Organizational Memory


Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Human Resources  |  Knowledge & Intangibles


More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Special Interest Group Leader

You here


About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us | Privacy | Terms of Service
Copyright 2016 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 4-12-2016. All names tm by their owners.