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As noted in the previous section, many organizations group jobs in various ways in different parts of the organization, but the basis that is used at the highest level plays a fundamental role in shaping the organization. There are four commonly used bases.
Every organization of a given type must perform certain jobs in order do its work. For example, key functions of a manufacturing company include production, purchasing, marketing, accounting, and personnel. The functions of a hospital include surgery, psychiatry, nursing, housekeeping, and billing. Using such functions as the basis for structuring the organization may, in some instances, have the advantage of efficiency. Grouping jobs that require the same knowledge, skills, and resources allows them to be done efficiently and promotes the development of greater expertise. A disadvantage of functional groupings is that people with the same skills and knowledge may develop a narrow departmental focus and have difficulty appreciating any other view of what is important to the organization; in this case, organizational goals may be sacrificed in favor of departmental goals. In addition, coordination of work across functional boundaries can become a difficult management challenge, especially as the organization grows in size and spreads to multiple geographical locations.
Organizations that are spread over a wide area may find advantages in organizing along geographic lines so that all the activities performed in a region are managed together. In a large organization, simple physical separation makes centralized coordination more difficult. Also, important characteristics of a region may make it advantageous to promote a local focus. For example, marketing a product in Western Europe may have different requirements than marketing the same product in Southeast Asia. Companies that market products globally sometimes adopt a geographic structure. In addition, experience gained in a regional division is often excellent training for management at higher levels.
Large, diversified companies are often organized according to product. All the activities necessary to produce and market a product or group of similar products are grouped together. In such an arrangement, the top manager of the product group typically has considerable autonomy over the operation. The advantage of this type of structure is that the personnel in the group can focus on the particular needs of their product line and become experts in its development, production, and distribution. A disadvantage, at least in terms of larger organizations, is the duplication of resources. Each product group requires most of the functional areas such as finance, marketing, production, and other functions. The top leadership of the organization must decide how much redundancy it can afford.
An organization may find it advantageous to organize according to the types of customers it serves. For example, a distribution company that sells to consumers, government clients, large businesses, and small businesses may decide to base its primary divisions on these different markets. Its personnel can then become proficient in meeting the needs of these different customers. In the same way, an organization that provides services such as accounting or consulting may group its personnel according to these types of customers. Figure 2 depicts an organization grouped by customers and markets.