Org 4 - Management, Determining a Structure


Part 4:  Defining a Management Structure  

Assistive technology (AT) reutilization operations consist of one or more of the five services enumerated in the Introduction: device exchange, reassignment, refurbishment, remanufacturing or recycling. Many are likely to be hybrid operations. What kind of management structure is needed for a nonprofit organization performing these activities? The answer depends on the size of the operation (as measured in number of users served and number of devices handled), the size of the available work staff, the structure of the parent organization if it is an off-shoot, and the stage of the organization in its life cycle. The structure depends on whether the organization can afford some paid managers and staff, or whether it is almost entirely dependent on volunteers.


A competent leader with management experience, whether in the public or private sector, will be key to the success of the AT operation. What will the manager or managers be expected to do?

In general, management has five functions:     •  Planning how to accomplish goals     •  Organizing human and financial resources     •  Leading human resources through decision making     •  Coordinating the activities across functional areas     •  Controlling performance and the use of resources      In most variations of this theory of management, the structure used for implementation is matrix management, a system in which managers are selected for specialized knowledge and workers are grouped together by function. For example, workers in a newspaper are organized in departments for advertising sales, news gathering, accounting, production, marketing and distribution. In the matrix management scenario, the AT organization chart would address the primary activities of the center – acquiring reusable equipment donations, qualifying users for services, refurbishing or remanufacturing devices, reassigning devices to users and recycling devices or components that have reached the end of their useful life. These activities require specific skills and someone to oversee the activities.



AT Activity



Acquire used AT

Policies establishing which items will be accepted


Procedures for accepting donations


Procedure for tracking inventory

Public relations: build image of organization and service to community

Promotion: publicize role of organization, needs, services

Track AT devices

Determine which devices can be refurbished, which need to be recycled

Procedures for  assessing condition of AT devices


Policy for end-of-life disposal

Evaluate devices

Repair/ refurbish devices

Provide work space and tools for refurbishment

Repair, refurbish devices

Qualify applicants for services

Develop policies and procedures regarding services and eligibility requirements


Determine user’s AT needs


Evaluate applicants according to standards


Create and maintain records in manner consistent with privacy laws

Recruit, select, train workers

Develop policies and procedures consistent with employment laws


Identify training needs


Develop training plans for workers (including volunteers)

Recruit candidates and select employees and/or volunteers


Train new workers

Reassign AT devices

Develop policies and procedures for matching user to available device


Develop policies and procedures for use of exchange services

Match user to appropriate AT device


Maintain web site for exchange services

Deliver equipment to user

Acquire vehicles for transportation of devices


Develop policies and procedures for qualification of drivers, pickup and delivery services, tracking of pickups and deliveries

Pick up donations and deliver AT to new users



A start-up AT organization is not likely to have the resources to have an employee supervisor or manager for each of these areas. The chief executive officer may perform several or all of the supervisory roles until the organization grows sufficiently to justify the addition of managers. Doing this inhibits the leader’s ability to focus on large-range planning, community outreach and sustainability planning. To juggle all of this, a very capable secretary or administrative assistant will be helpful. One more person to juggle contacts with the public and users, and to keep records, can make a big difference.


Some of the roles that would be supervisory or managerial may be filled by volunteers with those skills who are willing to serve in an unpaid capacity.


As the organization grows and can afford to add managers, the CEO can delegate responsibility for areas. A second model could be the addition of two managers to whom the CEO can delegate the immediate supervision of workers and volunteers. The responsibilities could be split logically between business management and operations. The business manager may assume responsibility for accounting, finance, donations, and purchasing, with the operations manager overseeing user services, equipment cleaning and repair and transportation. This would leave the CEO with direct responsibility for employment, fundraising and long-range planning.


An organization that is an off-shoot of a much larger, well-established group may have more resources. One that is run by or linked to a government agency may draw resources from the existing organization.


As the organization grows, it is not necessary to perform all tasks with employees. Some of the key activities may be outsourced or contracted. For example, payroll may be administered through an outside organization, and transportation may be contracted to a professional freight or delivery organization. Web site development and support may be outsourced.


Organization Charts


The organization and reporting relationships of an organization can be described graphically in an organization chart. Typically, these charts show functional areas or departments in boxes with the names of the incumbent managers included. Only the management structure is included, not the names of all employees. See the attached documents for examples of organizations at different points in the life cycle.

Teams and Projects as Management Alternatives  

Team theory and project management have influenced organizations in recent decades, bridging the traditional functional organization to organize around goals and strategies to attain those goals. Without changing the formal reporting relationships, team members with specialized skills are chosen to fill a specific role for the term of the project. The roles do not correspond to the reporting relationships defined on the company organization chart. One individual may play different roles concurrently in different projects. This approach has led some organizations to identify skills and to organize by function (and give titles), then operate in team or project mode to accomplish tasks. The success of teams depends on flexibility and focus on objectives. Teams are not committees: They have a specific objective and a life span. The team disbands when the project is complete. When the project is complete, members return to their “normal” role in the management structure, or move on to new roles in new teams. Teams are particularly effective for implementing change and for projects that overlay daily operations.




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This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.


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Other Information

Title: Org 4 - Management, Determining a Structure
Module: Organization
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Administrator
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It on Center
Last Reviewed: 01-23-2009 9:09 AM