Form and Function



What do we mean by form and function?

This is a primary organizational concept and underlies everything Kurt Lewin, Peter Drucker and everyone else who speaks to the notion of how organization's work, is talking about.

Form means: What does the organization look like? Does it have two heads six feet and an eye or does it look like something else? Most organizations in both the private and public sectors look pretty much the same.

Function means: What does it do? Does it cook dinner, does it let out the dog, does it design software? Since organizations do all sorts of different things one would expect them to look more differently than they do.

When consultants or academics say form follows function they mean that it is necessary to figure out what you want to do, if you want to do it well, before you build the structure to do it. In government, and in many organizations in the private sector, we start off with a mayor, a council and a bureaucracy or a CEO, a board of directors and a bureaucracy before we decide what we want them to do. Often, in the private sector, an organization grows out of a single person's good idea which he or she is able to market and after a while a CEO and a board of directors is added whether they are needed or not. In the government sector, we repopulate the structure every four years or even every two years with no regard to the impact that has on goal attainment. The structure/form of organizations in both the public and private sectors, i.e. what they look like, is or becomes, often by default, more important than what they do.

Organizational design such as this is like building an automobile with the steering wheel on the roof and hoping that it will somehow turn the wheels when the road curves. The CfGF believes that many things that government and or the private sector do, could be done more easily with more streamlined form. Click here to see a TEN MILLION BLOCK the center is building which illustrates how resources can be applied more efficiently when one starts with function rather than form.