# 6.3A: Formal Structure

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Formal structure of an organization or group includes a fixed set of rules for intra-organization procedures and structures.

Learning Objectives

• Compare and contrast formal with informal organizations

## Key Points

• A formal organization has its own set of distinct characteristics, including well-defined rules and regulations, an organizational structure, and determined objectives and policies, among other characteristics.
• Formal rules are often adapted to subjective interests, giving the practical everyday life of an organization more informality.
• The deviation from rulemaking on a higher level was documented for the first time in the Hawthorne studies in 1924. This deviation was referred to as informal organization.

## Key Terms

• procedure: A particular method for performing a task.
• Formal organization: It is a fixed set of rules of intra-organization procedures and structures.

## What are Formal Organizations?

The formal structure of a group or organization includes a fixed set of rules of procedures and structures, usually set out in writing, with a language of rules that ostensibly leave little discretion for interpretation. In some societies and organizations, such rules may be strictly followed; in others, they may be little more than an empty formalism.

## Characteristics of Formal Organization

A formal organization has its own set of distinct characteristics. These include well-defined rules and regulation, an organizational structure, and determined objectives and policies, among other characteristics.

## Distinction from Informal Organization

Formal rules are often adapted to subjective interests giving the practical everyday life of an organization more informality. Practical experience shows no organization is ever completely rule-bound: all real organizations represent some mix of formal and informal characteristics. When attempting to create a formal structure for an organization, it is necessary to recognize informal organization in order to create workable structures. Tended effectively, the informal organization complements the more explicit structures, plans, and processes of the formal organization. Informal organization can accelerate and enhance responses to unanticipated events, foster innovation, enable people to solve problems that require collaboration across boundaries, and create paths where the formal organization may someday need to pave a way.

## The Hawthorne Studies

The deviation from rulemaking on a higher level was documented for the first time in the Hawthorne studies in 1924. This deviation was referred to as informal organization. At first this discovery was ignored and dismissed as the product of avoidable errors, until these unwritten laws of were recognized to have more influence on the fate of the enterprise than those conceived on organizational charts of the executive level. Numerous empirical studies in sociological organization research followed, particularly during the Human Relations Movement—the researchers of organizational development who study the behavior of people in groups, in particular workplace groups.

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