BUSINESS ENGLISH advanced
7. Companies and Organizations

·         Vocabulary

Match up the words on the left with the definitions on the right

 

1 autonomous                A a system of authority with different levels, one above the other

2 decentralization          B a specific activity in a company, e.g. production, marketing, finance

3 function                     C independent, able to take decisions without consulting a higher authority

4 hierarchy                   D people working under someone else in a hierarchy

5 line authority              E dividing an organization into decision-making units that are not centrally controlled

6 report to                     F the power to give instructions to people at the level below in the chain of command

7 subordinates               G to be responsible to someone and to take instructions from him or her

 

 

·         Reading

Read the text below, about different ways of organizing companies, and then label the diagrams, according to which of these they illustrate:

Line structure  / functional structure   / matrix structure / staff structure

 

       
   
 
 


Text Box:

                           
   
 
   
       
 
 
   

 

 
     

 

 

 

 

 


A.………………          B.………………….              

 

       
   
 
 

 

 

 

 

 


C.……………….                   D………………..

 

Most organizations have hierarchical or pyramidal structure, with one person or a group of people at the top, and an increasing number of people below them at each successive level. This is a clear line or chain of command running down the pyramid. All the people in the organization know what decisions they are able to make, who their superior (or boss) is (to whom they report), and who their immediate subordinates are (to whom they can give instructions).

Some people in an organization have colleagues who help them: for example, there might be an Assistant to the Marketing Manager. This is known as a staff position: its holder has no line authority, and is not integrated into the chain of command, unlike, for example, the Assistant Marketing Manager, who is number two in the marketing department.

Yet, the activities of most companies are too complicated to be organized in a single hierarchy. Shortly before the First World War, the French industrialist Henry Fayol organized his coal-mining business according to the functions that it had to carry out. He is generally credited with inventing functional organization. Today, most large manufacturing organizations have a functional structure, including (among others) production, finance, marketing, sales, and personnel or staff departments. This means, for example, that the production and marketing departments cannot take financial decision without consulting the finance department.

Functional organization is efficient, but there are two standard criticisms. Firstly, people are usually more concerned with the success of their department than that of the company, so there are permanent battles between, for example, finance and marketing, or marketing and production, which have incompatible goals. Secondly, separating functions is unlikely to encourage innovation.

Yet, for a large organization manufacturing a range of products, having a single production department is generally inefficient. Consequently, most large companies are decentralized, following the model of Alfred Sloan, who divided General Motors into separate operating divisions in 1920. Each division had its own engineering, production and sales departments, made a different category of car (but with some overlap (suprapunere, întrepătrundere), to encourage internal competition), and was expected to make a profit.

Business that cannot be divided into autonomous divisions with their own markets can simulate decentralization, setting up divisions that deal with each other using internally determined transfer prices. Many banks, for example, have established commercial, corporate, private banking, international and investment divisions.

An inherent problem of hierarchies is that people at lower levels are unable to make important decisions, but have to pass on responsibility to their boss. One solution to this is matrix management, in which people report to more than one superior. For example, a product manager with an idea might be able to deal directly with managers responsible for a certain market segment and for a geographical region, as well as the managers responsible for the traditional functions of finance, sales and productions. This is one way of keeping authority at lower levels, but it is not necessarily a very efficient one. Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, in their well-known book In Search of Excellence, insist on the necessity of pushing authority and autonomy down the line, but they argue that one element – probably the product – must have priority; four-dimensional matrices are far too complex.

A further possibility is to have wholly autonomous, temporary groups or teams that are responsible for an entire project, and are split up (a se diviza, a se împărţi) as soon as it is successfully completed. Teams are often not very good for decision-making, and they run the risk or relational problems, unless they are small and have a lot of self-discipline. In fact, they still require a definite leader, on whom their success probably depends.

 

 

·         Describing company structure

 

The most common verbs for describing structure are:

Consists of       contains           includes

Is composed of             is made up of               is divided into

e.g. The company consists of five main departments.

The marketing department is made up of three units.

 

Other verbs frequently used to describe company organization include:

 

To be in charge of                   to be responsible for

To support or to be supported by        to assist or to be assisted by

To be accountable to

e.g. The marketing department is in charge of the sales force.

The five department heads are accountable to the Managing Director.

 

This is an example of part of a company organization chart:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board of Directors

with a Chairman (GB)

or President (US)

 
 
 

 


Managing Director (GB)

or

Chief Executive Officer (US)

 
 
 

 


Production    Marketing     Finance     Research &          Personnel

                                                         Development

Market      Sales     Advertising

Research                 Promotions             Financial          Accounting

                                                         Management

 
 
 


Northern              Southern

Region                  Region

 

Now write a description of either the organization chart above, or a company you know, in about 100-150 words.

 

 

 

18. The External Environment of  Organizations

 

 

The many rapid changes taking place in the external environment of organization require increasing attention from managers. The direct-action component of the environment consists of the organization’s stakeholders – that is, the groups with direct impact on the organization’s activities. External stakeholders include customers, suppliers, governments, consumer and environmental advocates, special interest groups, labor unions, financial institutions, the media, and competitors. Internal stakeholders include employees, shareholders, and the board of directors.

 

Managers must balance the interests of the various stakeholders for the good of the organization as a whole. They may be able to use the network of relationships among the stakeholders and the organization to influence stakeholders individually. For their part, stakeholders may unite in coalitions to exert over (a exercita, a face uz de influenţă) the organization. Individual stakeholders may also hold conflicting stakes (interes, participare) in an organization.

 

The indirect-action component of the environment consists of their factors that influence the organization indirectly. Not only do these factors create a climate to which the organization must adjust, but they have the potential to move into the direct-action environment. Demographic and lifestyle variables mold (a forma, a modela)an organization’s labor supply and customer base, and changes in values are at heart of every other social, economic, political, and technological change. Managers must distinguish between and adjust to structural and cyclical changes in the economy. In addition, they must contend with (a lupta cu) the growing influence of special interest groups in politics, and technological developments also fuel the competition between organizations.

Technological advances in communication and transportation have made the international environment increasingly important. Greater international competition has made the U.S. lag (a întârzia, a rămâne în urmă) in competitiveness critical, and has also blurred (a întuneca, a pune în ceaţă) the distinction between the private and public sectors.

The environment determines the extent to which (gradul în care) organizations face uncertainty and to which they are dependent on others for vital resources. In turbulent environments, organizations must devote more of their resources to monitoring the environment. The natural-selection, resource-dependence, and industrial-organization models provide alternative views of the relationship between organizations and the environment.

Managers – especially at higher levels – must monitor the external environment and try to forecast changes that will affect the organization. They may use strategic planning and organizational design to adjust to the environment.

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