In an earlier blogpost I proposed to experiment with a blog debate and Josien and Andy were into to trying this. Josien kicked off a debate about The end of the organization? Based on an essay by Michael Gilbert.
Josien responded by agreeing that organizations are shaped by communication patterns, communication patterns are changing, therefore organizations are changing. Communication channels have determined organigrams. The social web is a revolution which has really changed the principles of communication. Secondly, she argues that it is already happening, the future is now. For instance in the music, travel industries etc. New business models emerge. Best is the read the full post.
Is this the end of the organization? Probably not by name and certainly not in the broadest sense of the term. But the traditional, tightly controlled, top down, branded organization is finding itself having to adapt and change. The
organizations of the future will not look like the organizations of today. Whether the organization as we know it survives or not, it is by studying the changing patterns of communication that we will discover the new
shape of civil society. Our methods of analysis - and possibly our methods of regulation, funding, and participation - will shift from those that reflect managerial thinking to those that reflect ecosystem thinking.
So I will argue that the organization is here to stay. I think both are putting too much emphasis on communication. The basis of organizations is their mission, aim, goal, whatever you name it. In the commercial sector it is about products and services, in the government is it about legislation, in the nonprofit sector is it about a societal goal.. The function of an organization is to deliver that product or to achieve that mission by integrating the work of its employees. So the organization is there to stay, because its basis it collaborating to produce a product or service of value for society. Communication is a means to an end.
But I do think there are changes underway, since more and more organizations thrive on knowledge workers, professionals. I would like to point to Stephen Collin's presentation Power to the People. Stephen points to the fact that knowledge workers (people working primarily with information and developing and using knowledge) are often demotivated and restrictred by their organizations. The manager's wish to control the outputs of the organizations leads to overly controlling behaviour towards knowledge workers who feel withheld in their practice by the managers. This is a core conflict between managers and knowledge workers who don't want to be managed. So the organizations of the future will have found ways of dealing with this conflict and are smart in leveraging the power of the knowledge workers. Possible contributions to dealing with this conflict may be found in the following 3 areas:
- Communities of practice - whereby value created is measured and effectiveness closely monitored- this needs much more attention.
- Online communication and collaboration tools- which make help reducing the tension between managers and knowledge workers because it makes the work of knowledge workers more accessible and transparent. (after all, online communication leaves visible traces, face-to-face communication doesn't)
- Disappearance of the division between knowledge worker and managers, managers will increasingly be knowledge workers and be parttime managers - hence the disappearance of the full-time manager.