Every business or organization is structured differently, depending on its needs and goals. A variety of different structures are utilized today. One of the oldest and most traditional structures is a functional structure. Under this system, individuals with similar jobs and skills are grouped together into productive units with a hierarchical reporting system. This provides a variety of benefits.
One benefit of a functional organization structure is the positive atmosphere it provides for skill development. Because a functional structure groups people performing similar tasks that require certain skills, more experienced or talented group members serve as examples and mentors to individuals with less experience. This leads to continuous growth and development within the organization from simple day to day interaction, instead of having to rely on specialized seminars or workshops to improve the quality of work coming out of a department.
Coherent Chain of Command
A functional structure for organizations establishes a very concrete chain of command. For example, a photo department and graphic design department may fall under the purview of a visual arts department under the purview of a marketing department within a larger corporation. A clear chain of command is important because it creates standard operating procedures, established consequences and enhanced accountability. In turn, productivity occurs on a more proficient basis.
Expedited Decision Making
Functional structures in organizations can speed up the decision-making process. Usually, group decision-making can slow down progress on projects because of the diverse perspectives involved. While people will still have differing perspectives under functional structures, similar professional and educational backgrounds offer more common ground than not, theoretically making the decision-making process much easier to navigate. Moreover, the streamlined hierarchy facilitates more authoritative decision-making, which requires far less deliberation most of the time.
Functional structures offer a very specific career ladder for participants. As such, individuals attaining a supervisory role are more likely to have had experience in the tasks they are evaluating their employees on. This gives them better insight and credibility when they make their evaluations, and can allow them to offer more constructive feedback because they have a firsthand understanding of the jobs the individuals being evaluated are performing.
Because everyone in a functional structure is operating in an area of expertise with peers of similar expertise, their contributions to the overall goals of a company or organization will be more specialized. Unlike teams where members serve in drastically different capacities, like a graphic designer and copywriter working together, group members in a functional structure have expertise in similar areas, and can push each other to greater heights. As the saying goes, steel sharpens steel, and coworkers in a functional structure can sharpen each other's skills.