structure aspect

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Structure is one of the four primary aspects of the business organization - purpose, function, process, and structure. See business organization aspects for an explanation of their derivation. The four aspects are the framework for the inquiry process that is performed to understand and design business organizations.

Structure aspect introduction --
Structure pertains to the organization's resources, components, and the structure of their relationships. It is what an organization uses to produce the function in fulfilling its purpose. Structure is the complement of function -- entailing the notion of cause, that which gives rise to action, prescribing which events have which effects, as in cause and effect. Structure is the means, the resources, especially technology, as in means and ends. Structure encompasses the notion of input, what is taken in by the processes in producing the function. See function aspect and process aspect.

Inquiring on structure --
When inquiring upon the business organization from the structure perspective, the following types of questions guide the inquiry:

  • What resources does the business require? Consumable resources for conversion? Skills? Functional expertise?
  • What is the decision making structure of the organization? Formal? Informal?
  • What is the responsibility structure? Accountability?
  • What theme or pattern is there to the configuration of the resources of the business?
  • How does the structure empower the members of the organization?
  • How is learning organized?
  • What aspects of structure are flexible? Rigid?
  • What principles guide the behavior of the organization members?
  • What is the structure of the value system? Why? How does this relate to the processes, producing the function, and achieving the purpose? What is inside and outside of the organization? Why?
  • What is the physical structure of the organization? Why? How does this relate to the processes, producing the function, and achieving the purpose?
  • What assets are of strategic importance? Which ones are not? Physical assets? Members? Intellectual property?
  • Are the strategic assets being fully exploited? By existing processes? By new processes?
  • What other industries could the strategic assets be applied to?
  • What alternative uses exist for the strategic assets?
  • What other resources in terms of people, assets, partners, and alliances are essential to the business?
  • How is the structure reflected in the purpose?
  • How is the structure reflected in the processes?
  • How is the structure reflected in the function?
  • Suppliers (Hamel, 2002) --
    • How effectively are we using suppliers as a source of innovation?
    • Do we regard them as integral to our business model?
    • Do we gain competitive advantage from the way we manage the linkage with our suppliers (lightning speed, dramatically reduced inventory costs, etc.)?
    • How closely are our business goals aligned with those of our suppliers?
  • Partners (Hamel, 2002) --
    • Can we look at the world as a global reservoir of competencies?
    • What opportunities might be available to us if we could ""borrow"" the assets and competencies of other companies and marry them with our own?
    • How could we use partners to ""punch more than our weight""?
    • How can we use partners to achieve greater flexibility, focus more tightly on our core competencies, build a first mover advantage, or offer a more complete ""solution"" to customers?
  • Coalitions (Hamel, 2002) --
    • Can we look beyond our own resources and markets and imagine new resource combinations that could create new markets and services?
    • Can we co-opt other firms into a ""common cause""?
    • Can we use their resources to alter the competitive dynamics of an industry?
    • Can we use a coalition to bring a highly risky project into the realm of feasibility?
    • Can we use our coalition to attack the entrenched position of an industry incumbent?

These questions are asked from two orientations - from outside and from inside the business organization.

Structure and business model elements --
During an inquiry process, answering the questions related to the structure aspect is one step in defining business model elements and their interrelationships. Though some business model elements are more readily associated with structure than others, the structure inquiry has implications for all elements of the business. An aspect of structure will be manifest in the organization's purpose, processes, and function. See business model elements for an elaboration of 'aspects' vs. 'business model elements'.

See business model for the structure of the business model elements associated with each aspect of the business organization.