Starbucks Organizational Structure In A Nutshell

Starbucks follows a matrix organizational structure with a combination of vertical and horizontal structures. It is characterized by multiple, overlapping chains of command and divisions.

Understanding the Starbucks organizational structure

Starbucks is a large and popular café chain, with over dozens of thousands of stores in 70 countries around the world.

The company is one of several large multi-national corporations to successfully implement a matrix structure. In general terms, a matrix structure consists of functional and product-based divisions with multiple chains of command. It is also well suited to organizations that have a diverse range of products or services.

Starbucks is controlled by a board of directors who operate in the company headquarters of Seattle, Washington. In the United States, the company is split into regional jurisdictions run by district managers who oversee a group of stores. Each store is run by a store manager and shift supervisor who oversees a group of staff.

Importantly, Starbucks promotes an inclusive culture among its staff. The company seeks to recognize exemplary employee performance and encourages them to develop hard and soft skills – regardless of title or pay bracket. With these skills, Starbucks gives employees the autonomy to serve customers in a way they deem best. Given that authority and empowerment are given to low-level employees, the company can also be said to incorporate aspects of a flat organization structure.

The four elements of Starbucks organizational structure

There are four key elements to the Starbucks organizational structure.

Below we will take a look at each in more detail.

Functional hierarchy

Functional hierarchy refers to the grouping of departments according to business functions. Examples include the human resource and marketing departments.

It should be noted that functional hierarchy is the most traditional aspect of the matrix structure. Much of the decision-making in each Starbucks department is centralized and only occurs at company headquarters. For instance, the corporate human-resource department makes policy changes applicable to every Starbucks café.

With the CEO at the helm, functional groups exercise top-down control to develop and then execute competitive growth strategies.

Product-based divisions

Starbucks also has several product-based divisions. These encompass divisions for coffee, merchandise, and baked goods to name a few.

They also include divisions for the numerous brands operating under the Starbucks banner, including Evolution Fresh juices and Teavana bottled teas.

Geographic divisions

With a presence in 70 countries, optimizing the structure of geographic divisions is vital for Starbucks.

In 2011, the company ditched the Starbucks U.S and Starbucks Coffee International (SCI) divisions to create three new regions:

  1. Americas – further divided into the Western, Northwest, Southeast, and Northeast United States.
  2. China and Asia-Pacific, and
  3. Europe, Middle East, Russia, and Africa.

Each division has a senior executive who is given flexibility in adapting strategies to the particular geographic region. The senior executive reports to both the geographic head and the functional head.


Teams are invariably found in Starbucks in every Starbucks café. The company understands that team performance and good customer service drive the financial success of every location.

As noted earlier, teams are motivated and empowered to perform in such a way that they further personal goals and enhance Starbucks’ corporate culture.

Key takeaways

  • Like many successful multi-national corporations, Starbucks employs a matrix organizational structure. The matrix structure is characterized by multiple chains of command and combines aspects of product and function-based structure.
  • With a focus on low-level employee empowerment and autonomy, Starbucks also embodies some aspects of a flat organizational structure. However, the company retains a strong preference for hierarchical corporate governance.
  • Starbucks also has product-based divisions to help structure the various product categories and brands for sale in each café. It also utilizes geographic divisions to simplify the management of its global presence.

Read Next: Organizational Structure, Starbucks Business Model, Starbucks Mission Statement, Starbucks SWOT Analysis.

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Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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