Sunday, February 20, 2011

Journal 3: Organization Hierarchy, Management structure, Communication Methods

The Higgins Armory Museum has a defined formal organizational structure including incorporators at the top, then trustees, the executive director, and department managers. For example, The education department has a manager, then someone in charge of different subsections and finally teachers, volunteers and other staff. Although this is the formal structure, it is flexible and the amount of staff fluctuates as needed. Additionally, some leadership positions are currently empty; there is no marketing director.

In the informal structure there is a focus on working together as a team (although the executive director has final say on everything) and across departments, with some people holding multiple positions in different ones. For example Libbie takes care of both communications (marketing/PR) and membership (annual support). She has also trained staff for the store since she has experience in that area. This sharing of positions is necessary because not all of them are always filled.

 I believe the informal structure is more effective than the formal structure. It allows everyone to use their strengths even if they are not exactly in their department, to learn about/ participate in what other staff members are doing, and creates a friendlier atmosphere since people are open to working together and to the ideas of others. For instance, at the marketing meeting back in January, involving a variety of staff members led to a larger variety of ideas than if the meeting only involved people in marketing. This informal structure works well/efficiently because the staff is relatively small. With a larger staff, working together with all the departments and even just with everyone in a single department might be unnecessary, overly time consuming and difficult. The structure does cause some issues though since, in the formal structure, each department should have a director/manager to keep everything organized and on task, while in reality, the marketing department does not.

There are several methods of communication used within Higgins Armory. Email seems to be the most common and is usually effective, both at communicating with other staff members and those outside the organization. Furthermore, messages can be sent to people who are not currently at work and they will be able to answer at home or when they return. The phone is also used effectively often, in a similar manner, plus it is more personal. Both phone and email have some issues. People need to have access to them and messages can be missed. Plus, using email can lead to some confusion since it can be difficult to convey everything in writing.

A third method of communication is simply seeing and talking to other staff in person. This is the clearest method and works well, especially for staff with work-spaces that are close together. For example, Libbie (PR/Memberships), Joanne (Events/Rentals) and I all work within speaking distance, and a few steps away from Suzanne (Executive Director). Talking to someone is ineffective though if the other person is not in their office (just as with some other communication methods).

In summary, although there is a clear formal structure within the organization, the informal structure of working together dominates on a day-to-day level. It is effective since the museum has a small staff, as are the simple methods of communication including email, phone, and just talking in person.

Note: This entry is an abridged version of the one I submitted to my internship coordinator due to length and discussion of the inner workings of the organization. The changes do not affect the meaning of or conclusions reached in the entry.

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