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Organic Structures

Recognition of the problems created by hierarchical organisations which are seen as mechanistic entities has led to the emergence of the alternative perspective that to sustain an entrepreneurial orientation requires the adoption of an organic structure (Miller 1983). This involves creating much flatter structures by removing layers of management, delegating decisions downwards to front-line employees and promoting high levels of horizontal and vertical information flows. The aim is to create a much higher level of flexibility and an ability to rapidly respond to changing circumstances. Authority is vested with those who have the appropriate expertise and these individuals are authorised to make necessary decisions in relation to their assigned areas of responsibility without having to go through the process of seeking approval from senior management. Emphasis is given to face-to-face communications. The work process is typically based around small teams who have the expertise to identify problems and develop solutions.

Fixed procedures are kept to a minimum and information acquisition is focused upon monitoring and anticipating weak signals of external change (Covin and Slevin 1990). Keeping an organic organisation on track is no simple process. Critical for success are strong entrepreneurial leadership, and a culture orientated towards co-operation, collaboration and a strong embedded commitment to solving whatever problems may emerge.

The small size of start-ups permits a rapid and flexible response to identified opportunities or newly emerging technologies. Replicating these benefits within large organisations usually requires an organic structure consisting of small autonomous teams. The acquisition and exploitation of new knowledge is especially critical in the case of technological entrepreneurship. Hence a key aim of senior management is to ensure an effective flow of knowledge both vertically and horizontally within these organisations. According to Morris and Kuratko (2002), this requires an entrepreneurial culture with the following characteristics:

  • 1. A people and empowerment orientation
  • 2. Commitment and a willingness to exhibit personal responsibility
  • 3. An orientation towards ‘doing the right thing’
  • 4. Focus on exploiting innovation to add value to the organisation’s operations
  • 5- The freedom for employees to grow and fail
  • 6. Attention to detail
  • 7. Emphasis on the future accompanied by a sense of urgency.
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