DEFINITION OF AN OFFICE
An office is generally a room or other area in which people work, but may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it (see officer, office-holder, official); the latter is in fact an earlier usage. Office as place originally referring to the location of one’s duty. When used as an adjective, the term office may refer to business-related tasks. In legal writing, a company or an organization has offices in any place that it has an official presence. An office is an architectural and design phenomenon and a social phenomenon, whether it is a tiny office of extremely small size (see small office/home office) through entire floors of buildings up to and including massive building dedicated entirely to one company. In modern terms, an office usually refers to the location where white-collar workers are employed.
2.1 FUNCTIONS OF AN OFFICE
The duties of an office include gathering information, keeping information, arranging information, giving information and protecting information.
a. Receiving information
Information in form of letters, telephone calls, orders, invoices, and reports on the various activities of the business. Information received could also be in form of other correspondence apart from letters e.g. circular, memorandum (memo) among others.
Keeping track records of necessary data and/or information readily available at the disposal of management for future references and to aid planning process.
The information accumulated by the office is seldom in the form in which it is to be given out; facts have to be gathered together from different sources calculations have to be made. Information arranged serves various functions among which are for the preparation of invoices, costing, statistical statement, reports, financial statement etc.
Though it record(s) kept, information is retrieved. The office must be able to disseminate the information in its possession. Such information may help the purchasing department to order goods, the sales department to amend prices and give quotation among others.
This is an additional responsibility observed intelligently in order to control the affairs of the business. In keeping stock records, any deficiencies must be reported; in keeping the accounts, any bad or doubtful debts must be reported before all hope of recovery is lost; vital records such as major
contracts must be properly protected; cash must be held in safety and banked.
2.2 ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF AN OFFICE
An organizational structure is mostly and hierarchical concept of subordination of entities that collaborate and contribute to serve one common aim.
Organizational structure allows the expressed allocation of responsibilities for different functions and process to different entities. Ordinary description of such entities is a branch, site, department, work groups and single person.
Organizations are structured in a variety of ways, dependant on their objectives and culture. The structure of an organization will determine the manner in which it operates and its performances. Structure allows the responsibilities for different functions and processes to be clearly allocated to different departments and employees.
A wrong organization structure will hinder the success of the business. Organizational structures should aim to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. An effective organizational structure will facilitate working relationships between various sections of the organization. It will retain order and command whilst promoting flexibility and creativity.
In summary, organizational structure refers to the way tasks are divided up and the patterns of co-ordination, communication, power distribution and workflow associate with this.
Two fundamental requirements of an organizational structure
a. Division of labour into distinct tasks. Note that this leads to specialization.
b. Coordination of that labour so workers are able to work in concert to accomplish the organization’s goals. Coordination occurs through:
i. Informal communication
ii. Formal hierarchy
2.2.1 Elements of Organizational Structure
The four basic elements of organizational structure are span of control, centralisation, formalisation, and departmentalization.
a. Span of control
This term is used to describe the number of employees that each manager/supervisor is responsible for. The span of control is said to be wide if a superior is in charge of many employees and narrow if the superior is in charge of a few employees.
This means the process by which control in an office or organization is exercised from the centre. The decision on what should be done, how it should be done, when it should be done etc cornes from to the branch offices from the centre.
An organizational structure is a formalized system showing authority and responsibility within the work environment and it designs them properly to suite its purpose(s).
This is simply referred to as the division in which the organization is spitted. For instance, considering the organic functions of business, it comprise of personnel, finance, production and marketing this constitutes the main functional aspect within an organization.
2.2.2 Different Structures
i. Tall structure organization
ii. Flat structure organization
iii. Hierarchical organization
iv. Matrix structure
v. Bureaucratic structure
vi. Functional structure
Tall Structure Organization
In its simplest form a tall organization has many levels of management and supervision. There is a “long chain of command” running from the top of the organization e.g. chief executive down to the bottom of the organization e.g. shop” floor worker. The diagram below neatly captures the concept of a tall structure.
Advantages of Tall Organization
a. There is a narrow span of control i.e. each manager has a small number of employees under their control. This means that employees can be closely supervised.
There is a clear management structure. The function of each layer will be clear and distinct. There will be clear lines of responsibility and control. Clear progression and promotion ladder.
Disadvantages of Tall Organization
a. The freedom and responsibility of employees (subordinates) is restricted.
Decision-making could be slowed down, as approval may be needed by each of the layers of authority.
c. High management costs because managers are generally paid more than subordinates.
ii. Flat Structure Organization
In contrast to a tall organization, a flat organization will have relatively few layers or just one layer of management. This means that the “chain of command” from top to bottom is short and the “span of control is wide”. Due to the small number of management layers, flat organizations are often small organizations.
Advantages of Flat Organization
More/greater communication between management and workers. Better team spirit.
Less bureaucracy and easier decision making Fewer levels of management which includes benefits such as lower costs as managers are generally paid more than worker.
Disadvantages of Flat Organization
Workers may have more than one manager/boss.
May limit/hinder the growth of the organization
Structure limited to small organizations such as partnerships, co-operatives and some private limited companies.
Function of each department/person could be blurred and merge into the job roles of others.
In a hierarchical organization employees are ranked at various levels within the organization, each level above the other. At each stage in the chain, one person has a number of workers directly under them, their span of control. A tall hierarchical organization has many levels and a flat hierarchical organization only have a few. The hierarchical structure clearly defines each employee’s roles within the organization and the nature of their relationship with other employees.
Advantages of Hierarchical Organizations
Authority and responsibility are clearly defined.
Clearly defined promotion path.
There are specialists managers and the hierarchical environment encourages the effective use of specialist managers.
Employees very loyal to their department within the organization.
Disadvantages of Hierarchical Organizations
The organization can be bureaucratic and respond slowly to changing customer needs and the marl within which the organization operates.
Communication across various sections can be especially horizontal communication.
Departments can make decisions, which benefit them rather than the business as a whole especially if there is inter-departmental rivalry.
Matrix structure groups employees by both function and product. This structure can combine the best of both separate structures. An example would be a company that produces two products “product a” and “product b”. Using the matrix structure, this company would organize functions within the company Matrix structure is the most complex of the different organizational structures.
Bureaucratic structures have a certain degree of standardization. They are better suited for more complex or large scale organizations. They usually adopt a tall structure.
The functional structure groups employees together based upon the functions of specific jobs within the organization. For example, a division of an Internet service provider (ISP) with a functional organizational structure might be as follows: Vice president
Sales department (sales function)
Customer service department (custdmer service function)
Engineering department (engineering function)
Accounting department (accounting function)
Administration department (administration function).
In summary, the best structure is influenced by many factors including company size, technology, and environment. But ultimately strategy not contingencies shape the structure (for better or worse).
2.3 CENTRALIZATION AND DECENTRALIZATION
In a centralized organization head office (or a few senior managers) will retain the major responsibilities and powers. Centralized authority means that the concentration of power and authority is near the top of an organization. Centralized system is, by its very nature, authoritarian. The upside of centralization is that decisions be made quickly to react to changing needs. The downside of centralization leads to a lessened sense of certainly inhibits initiative.
Conversely, decentralization will spread responsibility for specific decisions across various outlets and lower level managers, including branches or units located away from head office/head quarters. Decentralized organization is in effect when power and decision making are dispersed to successively lower levels of the organization. Though slower in its movements, decentralized system usually creates a stronger organization.
Organizations may also decide that a combination of centralization and decentralization is more effective. For example, functions such as accounting and purchasing may be centralized to save costs. Whilst tasks such as recruitment may be decentralized as units away from head office may have staffing needs specific only to them.
Merits of Centralized Structure
Senior managers enjoy greater control over the organization.
The use of standardized procedures can results in cost savings.
Decisions can be made to benefit the organizations as a whole.
The organization can benefit from the decision making of experienced senior managers.
In uncertain times, the organization will need strong leadership and pull in the same direction. It is believe that strong leadership is often best given from above.
Demerits of Centralization
It is bureaucratic in nature that is, it is too rigid to practice and it is mechanical.
It only suites large organizations and developed countries.
Inconsistency in methods and decision(s) making.
The decision making process is slow.
Merits of Decentralized Structure
Senior managers have time to concentrate on the most important decisions.
b. Decision making is a form of empowerment. Empowerment can increase motivation and therefore mean that staff output increases.
c. People lower down the chain have a greater understanding of the environment they work in and the people that they interact with.
Empowerment will enable departments and their employees to respond faster to changes and new challenges.
Empowerment makes it easier for people to accept and make a success of more responsibility.
It encourages employees sense of belongings and purpose.
Demerits of Decentralization Structure
It is relatively expensive to operates
Supervisor’s authority may be eroded since he does not carry the weight of authority.
It encourages indiscipline amongst employees.
It leads to decline in craftsmanship since the only activities handled are within the department.