Unilever international is a multinational corporation that is virtually in every country and owns many of the consumer products such as beverages and foods. They are also involved in personal care products and agents used in cleaning. It is a fast-moving international company and thus for it to do so it has to have an organizational structure that helps it achieve its goals. It started out with a decentralized structure whereby subsidiary companies in different national markets were responsible for production.
These national markets were also responsible for sales, marketing and distribution of the products. The accountability for performance fell on these national markets. Localization was achieved by recruiting local managers to lead these markets. Over the years, however, Unilever Company has built a common organizational structure as the decentralized structure did not fit with the changing competitive environment.
Current organizational structure
The organizational structure which affects the availability of resources and influences how decisions are made in Unilevel Company is a hybrid structure. This is because it is headquartered in two main areas which are the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. It has therefore refocused its operations into two global divisions: personal care products and foods. In the case of the foods products region, regional presidents who are assigned to these places are responsible for the results of the operations in these areas. The food divisions are in areas such as Asia, America, Europe, Africa, Turkey and the Middle East. This can be explained in a figure as follows:
Unilever operates with two divisional regions, functional segments which total to 5 and product segments which are basically two: foods and personal care products. Unilevel adopted this kind of organizational structure in order as to maximize on their communication and resources that were available. Their structure includes horizontal corporation and structures that are broken down into geographical settings, product and market. This ensures that they maintain a high degree of flexibility and quick decision making processes (Sherrer, 2010).
Team formation and management
A transnational team as the Unilever, management is a top-down approach. Managers at the top level will identify a competitive need and therefore are mandated to form teams which have particular mandates. These teams conduct researches and findings which they combine to find a conclusive analysis. It is from this analysis that a chief executive is identified who becomes the overall manager representative of the project within the specified area of competition. Underneath the chief executive there has to be other personnel identified in regards to the production. In this case there are different area in which they include manufacturing, personnel, research and development, finance and sales.
Having had these areas specified within them there are other areas which are identified and populated with personnel that can handle the requirements of that area. In the case of manufacturing, Unilever manufactures and produces a lot of products. With each product there is a destined manufacturing team which specifically deals with that product. The sales department has to have enough personnel who will look into different area and categories in which Unilever will have the best competitive advantage.
Informal structures affect the relationships and also the quality of work in an organization as they prove to be a better way of getting instant feedbacks within the organization. People in sales may have relations with those in the production and becomes an effective and easy way of getting feedback other than having to go through the manager or the person holding the authority. In this case, there is more productivity due to the fact that no time has been wasted. According to Marchewka (2006) he shows that the needs of members of the organization can be satisfied through the use and presence of informal structures.
Formal and informal structures
The formal structures within any organization are the people who follow certain and given job descriptions and job titles. It also shows how an organization is organized. Within the very same organization, there are people who make sure that get the tasks and the job done. They constitute the informal structure within the organization. The informal sector is more relaxed and able to connect and network.
The formal structure acts as the structure through which work and responsibilities are divided. It would prove to be very difficult incase there never existed a formal structure within an organization as workers/ employees would not agree on what their work truly pertains.
There is delegation of power by management which runs from the top most management level to the lowest. In this way the formal structures help to deliver this.
With formal structures, there is detailed ways with clear clarity through which an employee can offer support to others and also how fellow workers can help out the. Reviews on an organization concerning changes are easily done and achieved due to formal structures. Through formal structures in an organization, it provides the basic structure of pay scales.
Human resource activities are generally based on formal structures. They act as the ground on which activities conducted by the human resource that includes recruitment, promotions and also planning are identified and implemented. This becomes very ideal to help the organization in going forward and also achieving its goals and objectives.
There area few disadvantages that come from having formal structures within an organization. Employees can find it difficult to recognize to whom they should report to in some cases such as when there are formal structures in hybrids and matrix forms of structures. It can also prove hard to have clear communication channels as formal structures can take long in effecting changes due to the line of command these changes have to go through.
There are positive effects that come from having informal structures within an organization. As stated by Robert Dubin, informal structures help the organization to blend in with the formal structure of the organization. The informal structure helps the organization preserve itself from destruction that would occur from following formal rules, principles and even procedures according to the letter.
Due to the cooperation by the informal structure with the formal structure of an organization managers are less likely to keep checking on their workers. In this way there is more delegation of work. They also offer more support in the work that has to be done and ensure that there is good decentralization. This goes into increasing productivity and overall performance. Informal structures help to fill in gaps that may be caused to due to the underperformance of a manager in some areas. Knowingly or unknowingly the informal structure can help the formal structure in implementing most of the work that needs to be done. These could be areas as to when the formal structure requires summaries or even financial reports and they do not know how to go about it (Kandula, 2004).
Professional control, management and organization by the formal structure within the organization are mainly to some extent controlled by the informal sector. The check and balance is recognized by managers as a very crucial matter that affects the informal sector. Informal structures usually recognize the crisis that may be occurring as they are mostly the people on the ground. They are therefore very useful in ensuring that there are enough and adequate solutions implemented to solve such crisis.
Informal structures can pose disadvantages towards an organization. Due to cultures that are generated from lifestyles and values, informal structures within an organization can be resistant to change. An ill informed informal structure can cause devastating effects on an organization. Lack of morale and negative attitudes can be as a result of misinformation and even lack of information. Ill-informed informal structure through rumors can cause the down fall of a company and even affect its share in the market.
Once the informal structures get conformed to certain conformity in the organization it can be reflected negatively in their performance and creativity. Their initiative towards certain works can also be affected. This is because they have social control between them and therefore at times cannot work in an aggressive manner to performing to a high level (Fieldhouse, 1978).
Team management and project performance
In order to improve team management and the over all project performance there are some points that should be taken into consideration. Delegation of authority is very important to ensure that goals and objectives are attained. For delegation to occur there has to be a level of trust with effective communication skills. There should also be the use of information communication and technology as it will keep the team abreast with the technology changes. It would also help in better decision making. Due to the diversity of work at Unilever, information communication and technology could be an effective way of communicating with staff if urgent meetings cannot be conveyed within the shortest time possible.
As for improving project performance, great emphasis should be placed in monitoring and evaluation. This should include looking into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and even threats from the competition. In this way, the project can correct and also identify other variances within it. Management development efforts should not be based on training alone and performance setting and evaluation. Rather it should use an all encompassing and comprehensive approach to management.
Fieldhouse, D. K. (1978). Unilever overseas: the anatomy of a multinational 1895-1965. New York: Taylor & Francis publishers.
Kandula, S. R. (2004). Human Resource Management in Practice: With 300 Models, Techniques and Tools. New York: PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.
Marchewka, J. T. (2006). Information technology project management: providing measurable organizational value. 2nd ed. London: Wiley.
Sherrer, J.A. (2010). Project Management Road Trip For The Project Management Professional. New Jersey: J. Alex Sherrer.