What Does It Mean by a Traditional Organization?

The military is a great example of a hierarchy, one characteristic of a traditional organization.
The military is a great example of a hierarchy, one characteristic of a traditional organization. (Image: formación militar image by Marco Antonio Fdez. from Fotolia.com)

With the explosion of the Internet, organizations have evolved. Whereas almost all organizations followed the same structure for centuries, many different types of organizations now exist. The old structure, now called “traditional,” still exists. Three major characteristics make up a traditional organization.


Traditional organizations are based upon a hierarchy. In business, the chief executive officer (CEO) or president is at the top with other senior executives underneath, then managers and workers. This is simplified, but the idea is that there are fewer positions at the top than the bottom. Communication runs up and down the hierarchy ladder. You talk to your manager, who talks to their manager, who talks to their manager, until, if needed, it reaches the CEO or president. Information travels down the ladder in reverse fashion.


The bottom line to a traditional organization's definition is its goal. In a traditional organization, profit is the bottom line. In non-traditional organizations, the bottom line might be helping people, such as in nonprofit organizations.


Traditional organizations usually employ specialization, such as departments. This specialization is what makes the organization a hierarchy. For example, a group of people work together under one manager to accomplish a goal. That manager is grouped with the managers of other departments under another manager. In non-traditional organizations, departments may not exist. Instead, workers help out where needed and manage themselves as necessary.

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