Organizations Differently Organized

Posted on Sunday, 2 March, 2008 by


Still mulling over our debate blogposts some time ago, about “The End of the Organization?”.

I argued, with the author Michael Gilbert, that organizations will change importantly, as they are shaped by communication, and communication is fundamentally changing.

Others have listed Arguments why Organizations would NOT change very much:

  • Andy said: The economical is far more important for the shape of our organizations than communication. Organizations -even non-profits- are mainly shaped by profit and free market and private ownership.
  • Joitske said: Values and aim are important for the shape of organizations, communication is secondary to that. (But the role of managers will change.)
  • Miguel said: The nature of organizations, and the reasons why they are here are not going away. Organizations are coherent and can deal with responsibilities, where ecosystems and /or netweroks cannot.
  • Hang said: We all want freedom, but a certain degree of organization is needed, otherwise it is not practical and very expensive.

And I agree and would add:

  • Regulatory frameworks are not changing.
  • We are used to our present way of organizing. It’s engrained in our cultures and systems. We LIKE hierarchies, we like things to be orderly and controlled. We entertain ourselves with office politics; we will not easily accept a more miscellaneous way of organization.
  • Fear and lack of imagination will make us hold on to what we know.
  • We are incapable of coming up with tangible models for more networked systems to operate.

These are of course all interrelated; we want to pin down responsabilities, as Miguel said, and in the networks that are fuzzy and in constant flux, this cannot be done.
So I agree that organizations are here to stay. When you immerse yourself in web2.0 and only talk (or rather, skype, phone, chat, blog, tweet) with others that populate this small universe, it is easy to think differently. But it will not happen. Not in the next few decades.What will happen (IS happening) is new practices, new types or organizing in the margins. And gradually, social media will have deep impacts.
I tried to think of what is new in (some) organizations (besides the earlier listed ones).

  • Marketing: community marketing, viral marketing, conversational marketing
  • Changing business models (music, media)
  • Firewalls becoming more permeable
  • Control over employees’ communications is impossible; this in itself is not new. What is new, is that personal and professional identities are more blurred and more of the communication leaves a track now.
  • Recruiting: taking place in more locations, in a more conversational style.
  • Selection: googling and socialnetworking / blog in addition to CV
  • Slow percolation of the social “mores” of social networking on the workfloor? Questions like who to trust, who is an authority, who to grant access to what. may be answered very differently today than 5 yrs ago and 5 yrs form now. Whoever demonstrates ability is an authority: shift towards meritocracy?
  • Knowledge workers becoming even more mindful of their own learning path and personal portfolio, and increasing number of free-lancers.
  • Networked free-lancers operating as a company.

I would be interested to read my co-debaters on this, as I am sure I there is lots to add.