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Why looking for the "Networked Organization" paradigm I suggest has major limitations

posted Oct 19, 2009, 9:47 PM by John Oliver   [ updated Feb 18, 2015, 12:06 PM ]

I have been struggling over the years to really see how the data from my case study interviews and research either supports or denies the emergence of the networked organisation.

It certainly makes a great deal of sense and intuitively matches the impact of communications technologies on our world of work, but I have been left uncertain as to whether this approach in conceptualising the organisation of the future is in fact of significant use for not.

And it is extremely seductive to associate the technological parallels to organizational systems - the parallels in how information can be accessed and flows, however the concept of the "networked organization" leaves us in the dark as regards the power, knowledge and values dynamics.

In the recent past however, my thinking has become far clearer when synthesising all of the data from my research with regards to the concept of the network organisation.

Taking my inspiration from increasing levels of complexity (Eliot Jacques, Kurt Fisher), it is far more instructive in my opinion to  take the Competing Values Framework organisational archetypes (which give us a language on the dynamics and forces), and consider from a more macro level, how any organization embodies ALL of the competing archetypes, and that what we can observe is the emergence of (what we hope) are the appropriate archetypes according to such factors such as:
  • growth phase
  • business sector
  • competitive environment
  • organization department
  • size of organization 
  • etc....

Competing Values Framework

The emergence of contrasts as a way of looking at organizations, provides us with a more nuanced appreciation of the permutations of archetypes that are possible. 

And I believe equips us better in how we can apprehend these combinations and support them - for example in helping sustain a healthy level of "stretch" between the archetypes.

Dynamic Balance of Emerging Combinations of Competing Archetypes