COMT 310: Organizational Communication
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COMT 310: Organizational Communication Dimensions of Structure. Structure describes: work roles communication relationships. ‘decision’ is derived from the latin word decidere, which means to cut off. How might this apply to decisions concerning structure?. Structure varies by: goals

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COMT 310: Organizational Communication Dimensions of Structure

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COMT 310: Organizational Communication

Dimensions of Structure

  • Structure describes:

  • work roles

  • communication relationships

‘decision’ is derived from the latin word decidere, which means to cut off.

How might this apply to decisions concerning structure?

  • Structure varies by:

  • goals

  • technology

  • environment

  • size

  • key individuals

the alternative to structure is chaos.

  • There are a number of formal structures possible:

  • matrix Aircraft Company

R&D Assembl Market

civilianmilitary commer

Design jet

Build jet

Sell jet


  • work teams





  • spider plant

  • hierarchy

  • Dimensions of hierarchy:

  • horizontal complexity = specialization

This is more horizontally complex.


Vertical complexity = number of levels




centrality = degree to which decisions are made at the top of the structure.

  • centralized = at the top

  • decentralized = workers more empowered

  • Span of control

  • narrow

  • wide

narrow vs. wide??

formalization = how well does organization follow chart?

  • formal = follow to the letter.

  • informal = not so stringent

Emergent communication networks = result of formal and informal communication among those who work together.

It is who you are linked to. . .

  • Differences due to virtual structures

  • Fewer visual cues

  • Isolation allows stealth

  • No “there” there . . . What happens to context?

  • Asymmetrical in terms of time

  • Listening as reading

  • Talking as keyboarding

  • Communicating emotion

  • democracy? participation

  • group think differences?

  • coordination/chaos

  • accountability?

  • Competitiveness?

  • Potential for hegemony (domination)

  • Knowledge construction (negotiation)

  • Story telling

  • Commitment

So,to be more effective at work: develop key relationships in your organization which will allow more control over your situation.

Steve’s network 1998


Fiscal vice chancellor




Dean of Students

CAS dean

10 chairs

Steve chair

faculty association president





steve’s classes

Steve’s network 2005



Fiscal vice chancellor

temp provost

T dean

T dean

Student vice chancellor


Temp CAS dean

T dean

9 chairs

COMT chair








steve’s classes

  • The dean’s job is more complex

  • Too many interim administrators

  • Steve’s job is less complex

  • Steve has more colleagues = harder to find . . .

  • Steve is not the chair

  • Steve is not the union president and chief negotiator

5 other deans


35 departmental part-time faculty

~ 150 faculty at MSU-B

CAS Dean

7 departmental colleagues


Another view


Former students

Admin Assoc

~100 students

9 other CAS chairs

8-10 staff

2 other vice chancellors

many colleagues across USA

  • Liaison = connects groups, but doesn’t belong

  • boundary spanners (bridges) = represent group to the outside

  • Isolates = out of luck

  • Why would this university form strategic alliances?

  • Give an illustration

  • The advent of EMOs.

Networked Society: I keep a list of scholars across the country with whom I communicate on a regular basis via the internet.

Sonja Foss

Linda Putnam

Roger Smitter

Larry Frey

Patrice Buzzanell

The late Dwight Conquergood

Mara Adelman

I belong to NCA, which posts 8-10 messages daily relevant to my work. Check it out at:

Find your own networks.

For example, I read a message recently which reported that a Roper pole found that 57% of Americans are comfortable communicating with co-workers, and 51% are comfortable communicating with their boss.

What do you think?

MUS University Structure

  • # of levels?

  • Span of control?

  • Formality?

  • Centrality?

  • Specialization?

End of Section two

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