Symptoms of Structural Deficiency within an Organization



This paper aims to identify, outline and discuss the symptoms of structural deficiency within and organization. It therefore included review of relevant literature to find evidence for the identified symptoms of structural dysfunction. The results show that there are many symptoms of structural deficiency including: communication breakdown; lower rates of innovation; distributive difficulties; job dissatisfaction among employees; lack of teamwork; slow decision making processes; poor customer service; low quality of products and services; and low productivity within an organization. The results show that the most influential sign of malfunction in an organization’s structure is communication breakdown. If structural inefficiency leads to poor communication, many other operational areas that require information exchange between departments or among employees are negatively affected. Without effective communication therefore the organization will experience distributive challenges, inadequate participation in teamwork, slow decision making process, poor customer relations, and reduced opportunities for implementation of innovative solutions. These issues further contribute to production of low quality products and/or services so that the organization’s productivity levels fall.


Organizations design their method of management but there is none that is perfect. The emphasis therefore lies on effective leadership and organizational structures. Organizational structure consists of fiscal elements and controls such as financial statement, budget, external audit, human resource and other services (Immigrant & Pilechi, 1973). When evaluating effectiveness of an organization’s structure therefore the nature of its products, services and benefits can seen in the state of its productivity, general functioning and feedback from external audiences. The main aim of this paper therefore is to determine, outline and discuss the symptoms of structural deficiency within an organization.

Symptoms of Structural Deficiency within an Organization

Communication Breakdown

There comes a time when the departments within an organization fail to effectively exchange information and processed data as expected. It points to existence of belief that some departments are less efficient and untrustworthy hence each department decides to operate on its own. The absence of effective communication can further be influenced through incompetent department management. This raises quality concerns since departments are usually expected to work with each other as dictated by the organizational checks and balances (Dale, 2003). When communication fails, checks and balances also stop as each department makes decisions on its own. 

Another phase of communication breakdown is a case where communication channel is unclears such that employees directly approach either the head of department or the president to report complaints and offer recommendations (Elsaid, Okasha, & Abdel Ghaly, 2013). In an efficient organizational structure, employees report their concerns and suggestions to the departmental managers. At organizational level, poor communication leads to unawareness of the vision or purpose of the organization (Black & Gregersen, 2013). If the management lacks good interpersonal skills for example, the message will be poor formulated and communicated so that people understand it differently. The organization’s mission thus ends up being misunderstood. It is thus expected that the mission may not be achieved.

Distributive Difficulties

This can be detected in inefficiency of several organizational functions. The first scenario is where the company’s objectives are not clearly stated (Woodward, 1970). This implies that the leadership is unaware of the goals of the company and so are the employees. The next situation is lack of standards and approaches to work. This is greatly contributed by lack of understanding of company goals. Without the knowledge of a company’s objectives, it is impossible to construct accurate procedures to be followed at workplace. There is thus poor control of organizational procedures in general. A different feature is lack of adequate knowledge of the company product, which is due to poor knowledge of a company’s objective. The outcome will be poor customer relations because the employees do not understand the products they are offering and the reasons for which they do their work.

Elsaid et al. (2013) who analyze the state of Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs in Egypt explains the existence of distributive difficulties as reported by United Nations Development Program-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF) on Medium Sized Project (MSP). They report lack of accountability at personal levels, gaps and duplication of practices between various technical and scientific institutions due to poor integration, and inadequate control over bodies in charge of data collection and management. There was overall lack of organizational framework to guide the institution’s processes. Moreover, the Ministry had poor coordination of project procedures with regards to government and donor-funded activities. In addition, the Ministry experienced challenges in funds disbursement in accordance with operational procedures that met financial management degree set by both the Government and UNDP-GEF.

Low Levels of Innovation

Very low rate or absences of innovation starts with lack of effective communication. When the employees have poor interpersonal skills, they will lose trust in others and decide to do things their own way and according to their own understanding. This situation is further worsened by emphasis on individualistic cultures. Goncalo & Staw (2005) state that individualistic values have the potential to promote creativity but collective groups have been found to respond more positively to norms hence might be more creative when given the same set of instructions. Collectivism is particularly encouraged in present organizations because they encourage productivity and collaboration while individualistic commonly result in frequent conflicts due to pursuit of self-interests. Given the higher collaboration levels, collective groups are expected to be higher achievers compared to individualistic people whose actions are dictated by their interests (Pg. 6). 

The individualist values also deny the employees of a supportive work environment. When departments are independent and employees work without consulting the responsible groups in the department, they work without the support of others. In many cases, the individuals will make inaccurate decisions due to poor judgment of situations that is contributed by not consulting other organizational staff regarding important matters (Woodward, 1970). Contribution of various organizational departments on an issue is beneficial as it encourages utilization of available data from such departments through communication to aid adequate planning. This is made possible through cordial relationships with various organizational segments. When this is absent, adoption and implementation of innovative solutions will also fail.

Low Productivity

In an ineffective organizational structure there is usually poor detection of a company’s weaknesses. The company resources are thus inefficiently allocated due to poor knowledge of the correct resource requirements per department. When resources are poorly allocated a common result is inappropriate coordination of production procedures. This is generally because managers who distribute resources inappropriately lack proper production techniques. According to Elsaid et al. (2013), misallocation of resources often results from inadequate vertical communication. This means that top-down and bottom-up communication is not encouraged hence the management is not aware of the major issues affecting various departments. Employees often demand for effective communication and may be affected by absence of the same. This leads to job dissatisfaction and fall in employee performance due constraints in their empowerments. The workers start to feel that they lack a proper work environment and shift their attention away from the company’s objectives. The organization’s goals and objectives are thus not achieved an this leads to decline a company’s production levels.

Unequal Workload

Jamison et al. (2006) discuss that an organization’s structure is composed of financing tasks that incorporate determination of staff levels, hiring of staff, employee empowerment and employee compensation or payment. In a collapsed organization structure however, there are common imbalances in work distribution per department. Such an example is a situation where some departments have fewer employees than expected and are thus forced to overwork and even work overtime in order to fulfill their responsibilities. In such a company at that same moment, there exists a different department where the workers are too many and the duties are so few that the department management finds it almost impossible to keep each employee occupied.

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Lack of Teamwork

Dale (2003) explains that structural deficiency makes organizational departments either unwilling or unable to collaborate, and employees from the various departments will not seek the assistance of others. In such an environment, employees give attention to their personal duties but will not help others unless a supervisor says he or she should do so. This is the same thing that happens in organizations where individualistic values are encouraged. Individualism is against collectivism, which is associated with group or teamwork. Where individualism is encouraged due to poor communication and incompetent management, collectivism is ignored thus the absence of teamwork.

Even in organizations where team building is practiced, ineffective institutional structure is still influential and may lead to a case where team members are unable to realize united decision with regards to the company’s operations (Black & Gregersen, 2013). An example of such a case is where the symptoms of a failed operation are visible to all the group members but they have varied opinions concerning the possible causes of such a situation. This means that the team members will not reach a point of agreement as they have conflicting views.

A Slow Decision Making Process

The decision making process can be slowed down by a complex departmental procedures that prevent flow of decision making authority to the appropriate individual. In such cases, the proposed ideas or requests are taken through multiple stages before the right person is accessed and the feedback also has to follow such a long path. This generally affects the level of sales in a company and may prevent implementation of innovative solutions (Elsaid et al, 2013). It is fostered by the slow response from management which also hampers operational flexibility in adopting new practices because of poor coordination of hierarchical structures within departments in an organization (Ostroff, 1999).

Job Dissatisfaction

Employee morale is usually affected when there is poor communication yet they are reprimanded. The employees are likely to develop fear and mistrust the leadership so that they do not respect the institutional structures anymore. Such cases are encouraged by presence of multiple managers where each one gives different orders so that the employees are confused most of the time. According to Curristine, Lont, & Jourmard (2007) the public sector does not pay adequate attention to human resource management. The government institutions due to lack of adequate funds, for example, do not invest adequately in employee motivation hence workers morale is lower in such organizations.

Poor Customer Retention

Structural deficiency may mean lack of appropriate channels for reporting customer concerns. If for example the sales team does not report customer challenges to the customer service group, the customer service group fails to understand the problems and will not be able to control such issues and they might reoccur time after time (Dale, 2003). The lack of information about customer concerns and failure to handle the same may upset customers and make them stop seeking products or services from an organization. This may continue to happen as long as the problems are not handled and the organization may face difficulties in keeping or expanding its customer base.

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Poor Quality of Products and Services

Apart from professional development opportunities and availability of resources, the organizational structure must ensure flexibility of the organization to environmental changes, proper application of technology and upgrading of employee knowledge. Jamison et al. (2006) report two situations where quality of care did not match the requirements of better health. The first case involved pediatric care at Papua, New Guinea, where only 24% of the health center workers correctly prescribed malaria treatment. The second study was based in Pakistan, where only 56% of the care givers met diagnostic standards for viral diarrhea and only 35% knew the correct treatment. Analysis of these cases found that the challenges had no links with either professional focus or provision of resources. The problem was lack of proper knowledge of care, inappropriate use of technology and inflexibility of the organizations to changes. Jamison et al therefore explained that the structures of these health care institutions must have failed to design professional incentives according to organizational objectives. This explains the gap between quality improvement and better health results.


Identification of structural deficiency symptoms within an organization is a necessary procedure that comes before the organization starts to plan for solutions. The approach helps in determining the real causes of the challenges being experienced. Analysis of the symptoms led to realization that effective communication is very important in an organization as it allows for transfer of information and ideas between departments as well as between the management and subordinate staff. When communication fails due to structural deficiency, however, there is minimal exchange of ideas, low innovation levels, reduced teamwork participation, and job dissatisfaction among employee. Poorly motivated employees may then fail to build cordial relationships with customers and at the same time produce poor quality goods and services. All these factors will eventually lead to low productivity in an organization. 

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  9. Woodward, J. (1970) Industrial Organization: Behavior and Control. London: Oxford University Press.
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