Emerging Nature and New Organizational Structures

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

(This document is referenced from Basic Overview of Organizations (for-profit and nonprofit).)

Sections of This Topic Include

Characteristics of the New Nature of Organizations
New Structures (networks, virtual org., self-managed teams, learning org, self-designing org)

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Characteristics of New Nature of Organizations

New forms of organizations are geared to make organizations more receptive, adaptive and generative -- always focused on meeting the needs of stakeholders. New forms of organizations often exhibit the following characteristics:

1. Strong employee involvement - input to the system starts from those closest to the outcome preferred by the system, from those most in-the-know about whether the organization is achieving its preferred outcomes with its stakeholders or not. This way, the organization stays highly attuned and adaptive to the needs of stakeholders.

2. Organic in nature - less rules and regulations, sometimes no clear boundaries and always-changing forms

3. Authority based on capability - ensures the organization remains a means to an end and not an end in itself

4. Alliances -takes advantage of economies of scale, e.g., collaborations, networks, strategic alliances/mergers, etc.

5. Teams -shares activities to take advantage of economies of scale at the lowest levels of activities and ensures full involvement of employees at the lowest levels

6. Flatter, decentralized organizations - less middle management, resulting in top management exchanging more feedback with those providing products and services; also results in less overhead costs

7. Mindfulness of environments, changes, patterns and themes - priority on reflection and inquiry to learn from experience; develop "learning organizations"

New Organizational Structures

Network Structure

This modern structure includes the linking of numerous, separate organizations to optimize their interaction in order to accomplish a common, overall goal. An example is a joint venture to build a complex, technical systems such as the space shuttle. Another example is a network of construction companies to build a large structure.

Virtual Organization

This emerging form is based on organization members interacting with each other completely, or almost completely, via telecommunications. Members may never actually meet each other. See
Virtual Teams

Self-Managed Teams

These teams usually include from 5-15 people and are geared to produce a product or service. Members provide a range of the skills needed to produce the product. The team is granted sufficient authority and access to resources to produce their product in a timely fashion. The hallmark of a self-managed team is that members indeed manage their own group, i.e., they manage access to resources, scheduling, supervision, etc. Team members develop their own process for identifying and rotating members in managerial roles. Often, authority at any given time rests with whomever has the most expertise about the current activity or task in the overall project. Often members are trained in various problem-solving techniques and team-building techniques. These teams work best in environments where the technologies to deliver the product or service are highly complex and the marketplace and organization environments are continually changing. Self-managed teams pose a unique challenge for the traditional manager. It can be extremely difficult for him or her to support empowerment of the self-managed team, taking the risk of letting go of his or her own control.

Learning Organizations

In an environment where environments are continually changing, it's critical that organizations detect and quickly correct its own errors. This requires continuous feedback to, and within, the organization. Continual feedback allows the organization to `unlearn' old beliefs and remain open to new feedback, uncolored by long-held beliefs.

In a learning organization, managers don't direct as much as they facilitate the workers' applying new information and learning from that experience. Managers ensure time to exchange feedback, to inquire and reflect about the feedback, and then to gain consensus on direction. Peter Senge, noted systems theorist, points out in his book, The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday, 1990, p. 14), that the learning organization is "continually expanding its capacity to create its future ... for a learning organization, `adaptive learning' must be joined by `generative learning,' learning that enhances our capacity to create."

Self-Organizing Systems

Self-organizing systems have the ability to continually change their structure and internal processes to conform to feedback with the environment. Some writers use the analogy of biological systems as self-organizing systems. Their ultimate purpose is to stay alive and duplicate. They exist in increasing complexity and adapt their structures and forms to accommodate this complexity. Ultimately, they change structure dramatically to adjust to the outer environment. (Some assert that self-managed groups are self-organizing systems, although others assert that self-managed groups are not because an ultimate purpose is assigned to team members).

A self-organizing system requires a strong current goal or purpose. It requires continual feedback with its surrounding environment. It requires continual reference to a common set of values and dialoguing around these values. It requires continued and shared reflection around the system's current processes. The manager of this type of organization requires high value on communication and a great deal of patience -- and the ability to focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Focus is more on learning than on method.


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To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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Managing Organizational Change

Growing Your Organization



Managing Organizational Change

Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in for-profit or government organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.
Consulting and Organization Development With Nonprofits - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development With Nonprofits
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in nonprofit organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Growing Your Organization

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See for For-Profits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Business Development -- Recommended books

Financing Your Business -- Recommended Books

Product Development -- Recommended books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Also See for Nonprofits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Social Entrepreneurship (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Fundraising -- Recommended Books

Program Management -- Recommended Books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books




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