In a comment on Saturday Morning Musings – problems with system dependency, Evan referred in a comment to Alvin Toffler and 'adhocracy'. I didn’t remember the concept in a Toffler context, so looked it up. Wikipedia describes it in this way;
Adhocracy is a flexible, adaptable and informal form of organization that is defined by a lack of formal structure. It operates in an opposite fashion to a bureaucracy. The term was first popularized in 1970 by Alvin Toffler, and has since become often used in the theory of management of organizations (particularly online organizations). The concept has been further developed by academics such as Henry Mintzberg.
Adhocracy is characterized by an adaptive, creative and flexible integrative behavior based on non-permanence and spontaneity. It is believed that these characteristics allow adhocracy to respond faster than traditional bureaucratic organizations while being more open to new ideas.
Apparently the term was used in Toffler’s 1970 Future Shock, and then further extended in The Third Wave (1980). While adhocracy offered real advantages, there were also perceived risks including "half-baked actions", personnel problems stemming from organization's temporary nature, extremism in suggested or undertaken actions, and threats to democracy and legality rising from adhocracy's often low-key profile. To overcome these, a melded bureaucracy-adhocracy model was proposed.
These concepts were not unique to Toffler. Other popular writers including John Naisbitt in Megatrends (1982) popularised them as well. We were moving into a new world based on new computing and communications technologies of flexible working, virtual organisations in which work would be project based, constantly reforming and refreshing.
It is now over forty years since Toffler coined the term, over thirty years since Megatrends became a global best seller. How have we gone? What has actually happened?
On the surface, the very power of the new computing and communications technologies that were meant to free us, to take us in new directions, has created the command and control management that we see today. Management systems have actually gone in the opposite direction to that envisaged; flexibility has been replaced by rules, by new forms of measurement and reporting. The technology has allowed, even mandated, a requirement for the big to get bigger. More and more of our resources are devoted to just making all sorts of systems work.
Is this simply a passing phase, or are we condemned to suffocate in the controls and costs that increasingly enshroud us in our working lives? Can we define another path?