CHARACTERISTICS OF DIVISION (DEPARTMENTATION)
The process of grouping related work activities into manageable units is known as departmentation. The purpose of departmentation is to contribute to the more efficient and effective use of organisational resources. In this section, how functions should be grouped and what bases are to be used for departmentation are discussed. Functional similarity is the main basis for grouping similar work activities. But some of the factors which affect our objective of grouping functionally similar works are: inadequate volume of work to allow specialisation, traditions, work rules, personal preferences, and similarity of functions like inventory control to others in the organisation. Some similar functions may have to be separated to prevent conflicts of interest and, sometimes, dissimilar functions may have to be combined to achieve coordination.
It is a common practice to divide and group the activities of an organisation into desirable units to get best management results. But the characteristics chosen for division should however, be relevant to the purpose and should produce the desired results.
Normally the following bases are used to establish departments: i) numbers, ii) function, iii) territory, iv) product, v) customer, vi) process or equipment, vii) subjects, viii) document types, ix) time, x) continued task or combination of these criteria. Libraries have also used these methods, as well as a few more, but interpret them differently to suit their own contexts. Libraries have used the subject or form of documents as a useful criterion for division. However, no single criterion has been found workable for all situations and hence libraries have been using varying combinations of these bases to produce a hybrid structure. We shall discuss each of these to provide a better understanding.
i) Numbers: Division by number has been used primarily in defence, where a designated number of troops make up a squad, a platoon, or a regiment. But this criterion of division has been seldom used by libraries, except on rare occasions like shifting library premises and stock verification. But this certainly is a rare occasion and the arrangement of work is also temporary.
ii) Function The most common basis for departmentation is function. Practically all libraries use this form of departmentation which divides a library into functional departments such as acquisition, processing, reference services, bibliography, stock maintenance, circulation, information and documentation services, etc.
Departmentation based on function, as a simple, logical and time-proved method, has the advantages of allowing occupational specialisation, helping the easy assessment of the contribution of each subunit, simplifying training, allowing for defining the power and prestige as well as tight control of each activity by top management and ensuring economy in resource utilisation. However, the disadvantages of this method include unhealthy competition for resources, disagreements on common works, distancing of house keeping operations from customers, fostering sub-goal loyalties, creation of "walls" around departments; difficulties in achieving coordination and responsibilities resting only with chief executives. It may be noted that wide geographical distribution, heterogenous customer groups and dissimilar services come in the way of functional departmentation. Yet, most libraries use this method for organising their work and service.
iii) Territory: Business and industry use this form of division to adapt to local situations as far as the labour market, needs and production are concerned. Public libraries use this method of division to serve different branches, bookmobiles and other service units. In a national library system, regional libraries are organised on the basis of their geographical contiguity. But this method may not suit other types of libraries, as there is little scope for such a division.
The advantages of territorial design are encouragement for local participation in decision making and recruitment, economy and emphasis on local custom, style and preferences. The disadvantages of this basis are duplication of activities, short-run competition among themselves, poor communication facilities, and slow decision making and action.
iv) Product: Large industrial undertakings use this method of organisation as they specialise in manufacturing different products. Libraries and information units attached to such industrial houses may have to follow the practice of their parent organisations. But in general, there is no example of libraries organised on this basis. But if we can consider secondary publications brought out by libraries such as Current Awareness Bulletins, Indexing Journals, Abstracting Journals, etc. as information products, the publication department of the library may organise its work in this way. This method of organising has the advantage of keeping to time schedules, ensuring use of their products and saleability, comparing performance of different products, and allowing scope for stimulating improved performance and deriving satisfaction. The disadvantages include duplication of staff, facilities, equipment and extra expenditure.
v) Customer: Business operates its services totally based on customer interests and groups. This method of organisation in libraries is seen in public libraries. Separate services for children, students, physically handicapped, blind, etc., are based on this principle of division. The obvious advantage of this type of organisation is that it allows the library to meet the special and widely varying needs of different users and earns the goodwill of customers. The disadvantages are similar to those of territorial divisions, particularly duplication of facilities and uderutilisation of resources and facilities. Often coordination among different units becomes difficult because of varying interests.
vi) Process or Equipment: Industry has used this type of departmentation for large installations like smelting plant or steel mill where diverse processes or technologies are involved. Libraries and documentation centres can use this method for organizing their printing and photographic units. This method allows the judicious use of heavy arid costly equipment, increases efficiency and allows for specialisation. The disadvantages are difficulties in company performances and resolving conflicts when the processes are sequential and involve more departments. It may be more appropriate for libraries to organize by objectives and services rather than processes.
vii) Subjects: Public and academic libraries use this method of organising extensively. It provides for more in-depth reference and information services, requiring a higher degree of-subject specialisation on the part of the staff. There is, however, no set pattern that determines the subjects to be included in a subject department or no set number of subjects. In academic libraries, subject departments are usually broad in scope to include all related subjects, such as humanities, social sciences and sciences. In large public libraries, subject departments such as business, fine arts, and local history are common. There are definite advantages in subject organisation. All material dealing with a group of subjects may be brought together and services organised to meet the interests of users. The only disadvantage is perhaps the high cost, both in terns money spent in duplication of materials and the quality of staff required. But the advantage is certainly overwhelming to invest in this type of subject organistion.
viii) Document type: Libraries also get organised on the basis of the material they serve, such as books, periodicals, microforms, maps, machine readable forms and others.
ix) Time: Production oriented industries in order to optimise the use of their capital intensive facilities adopt shift as a basis for departmentation. The disadvantages of the shift-system include difficulties in-measuring performance, accidental occurrences and breakdowns in one shift affecting the other and "buck passing" from one shift to another. Libraries may also have to think of the shift system if services are to be provided for 16-24 hours a day.
x) Combined Base: Lastly, it is also possible to conceive departmentation based on two or more criteria discussed above. This type of grid or lattice or matrix departmentation is common in the manufacture of agricultural machinery.