Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Organizational forms compared: my evolving TIMN table vs. other analysts' tables

FINAL UPDATE — May 12, 2016: I have just posted a revised expanded iteration of this post. Which means this post is now obsolete and superseded. So please go here instead:


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[UPDATE — October 18, 2013: I’ve added figures and ideas fielded by Allen Paige Fiske and by Clay Spinuzzi, plus corrected a chronological mis-order.]

[UPDATE — September 25, 2012: I've added a figure and discussion about Kim Cameron's and Robert Quinn's "competing values framework".]

[UPDATE — January 23, 2012: I've added a table about a distinction Jane Jacobs (1992) made between “guardian” and “commercial” syndromes.]

[UPDATE — June 16, 2009: I’ve added a table from a remarkable paper by Paul Adler and Charles Heckscher. (Many thanks to the blog for pointing it out.) I’ve also edited my bulleted overview remarks a bit.]

[UPDATE — June 15, 2009: Apropos tables, over at the growing changing learning creating blog, innovation specialist Tom Haskins has done a series of interesting posts with tables — more than a dozen, starting here, with possibly more to come — on how TIMN may relate to other frameworks, notably the Cynefin framework about problem-solving situations. Whereas I pitch TIMN mainly at the societal level, Haskins is interested in how TIMN and other frameworks may be useful for analyzing pressures and opportunities for innovative change at micro-levels — e.g., groups, firms, other small enterprises. I compliment him on his interesting efforts, but I also have some doubts and would suggest revisions. After one of his posts became the subject of a post at the P2P Foundation blog, I used that to offer some comments. Haskins added a reply. Our exchange was later re-posted here.]

[UPDATE — May 21, 2009: For some critical commentary and discussion about this post with Michel Bauwens at the P2P Foundation blog, go here. Many thanks also to ZenPundit for making this post “recommended reading” a few days ago. And on another note, yes, I edited the name of this blog; let’s try Visions from Two Theories instead of Apropos Two Theories for a while.]

[UPDATE — May 19, 2009: I added three more tables to the appendix.]

What follows are draft paragraphs for introducing an eventual chapter. There is some repetition with what I posted in a summary overview earlier. But this post offers more detail and some new elaboration. The table in particular is more elaborate (and I’m still wondering how best to lay it out and fill it in).

The main purpose is to post the table, along with a bunch of alternative tables by other analysts in the appendix. I’ve seen at least a dozen other such tables, but just don’t have them as handy. Suggestions for additional tables (and directions for locating them) are welcome, even months from now. I’d eventually like to have about a dozen tables laid out. (By the way, click on a table to enlarge it in a separate window.)

Most such tables are about hierarchies, markets, and/or networks. Some analysts include other forms as well, such as heterarchies, or use other terms, such as peer-to-peer (P2P). Far as I know, mine is the only table that treats tribes as an equally distinct, separate form.

My notion is that it can be instructive to have various tables available in one spot for side-by-side comparison. It provides a way to highlight differences in underlying assumptions and dimensions.

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Table 1 (click to enlarge) summarizes many points that have been made (plus some not yet made) about the four TIMN forms. Its details indicate their differing strengths and limitations.

As an overview, the table conveys that each form, once it is subscribed to by many actors, is more than a mere form — it develops into a realm, even a system of thought and action. Each form embodies a distinctive cluster of values, norms, and codes of conduct; and these must be learned and disseminated for a form to take root and a realm to grow around it. Indeed, each form’s rise spells an ideational and structural revolution. Each is a generator of order, for each defines a set of interactions (or, if you prefer, transactions) that are attractive, powerful, and useful enough to create a distinct realm of activity, or at least its core. Each becomes the basis for a governance system that is self-regulating and ultimately self-limiting. And each tends to foster a different kind of worldview, for each orients people differently toward social space, social time, and social action. Indeed, what is rational — how a “rational actor” should behave — is different for each form; no single “utility function” suits all of them. Each attracts different kinds of personalities.

Thus each form becomes associated with high ideals as well as new capabilities. As each develops, it enables people to organize to do more than they could previously. Yet all the forms are ethically neutral — as neutral as technologies — in the sense that they have both bright and dark sides, and can be used for good or ill. The tribal form, which should foster community solidarity and mutual caring, may also breed a narrow, bitter clannishness that can justify anything from nepotism to murder in order to shield and strengthen a clan and its leaders. The hierarchical institutional form, which should lead to professional rule and regulation, may also be used to uphold corrupt, arbitrary dictators. The market form, which should bring free, fair, open exchanges, may also be distorted and rigged to allow unbridled speculation and profiteering. And the network form, which can empower civil society and its nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), can also serve to strengthen “uncivil society” — say, by enabling terrorist groups and crime syndicates to organize transnational networks. Thus, it is not just the bright sides of each form that foster new values and actors; their dark sides may do so as well. As Jane Jacobs (Systems of Survival, 1992, esp. p. 151) observed about what she calls the guardian (+I) and commercial (+M) syndromes, “monstrous moral hybrids” can take shape if they are mingled improperly.

Finally, note the bottom three rows. One points out that each form has a different architecture: Tribes, with their interlaced lineages and marriages, resemble circles and labyrinths (not to mention networks and webs). Hierarchical institutions are often depicted as pyramids or stovepipes, and markets as atomized billiard balls moving freely in space. Nowadays, information-age networks are said to resemble geodesic domes and “buckyballs” (after Buckminster Fuller). The next row observes that each form corresponds to a different aspect of anatomy: tribes to a body’s skin or look; hierarchical institutions to a musculo-skeletal system (as Thomas Hobbes implied); markets to a cardio-pulmonary circulatory system (as Karl Marx noted); and networks to a sensory nerve system (as Herbert Spencer thought, and many writers still suppose today). These are only analogies and metaphors, but they help impart the distinctive nature of each form.

The last row notes that each form is associated with a different information and communications technology revolution. In brief, the rise of the tribal form depended on a symbolic revolution: the emergence of language and early writing (runes, glyphs), enabling the storytelling that is central to tribal cultures. The rise of the hierarchical institutional form — as in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the absolutist states, and their vast administrative structures — reflected a mechanical revolution: the development of formal writing and printing, first penned script and later the printing press. This was important not only for keeping records and issuing commands, but also for inscribing laws that chiefdoms and states could apply to growing populations who were not kinfolk and often not well-known to each other. Next, the rise of the market form and its far-flung business enterprises was sped by the electrical technologies of the 19th century: the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Today’s spread of the network form extends from the digital revolution and its technologies, notably the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, which are especially empowering for civil-society associations around the world and across political spectrums.

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Appendix: Other Tables about Organizational Forms

For comparison and inspirational purposes, here are screen grabs (again, click to enlarge) and a little discussion about other tables. These are the ones I have handy; I know I have more somewhere, and I’ll add them as I find them. If anyone is reading, suggestions are welcome.

There are many write-ups about organizational forms, as I have discussed elsewhere. But not every write-up is accompanied by a table (or figure, or chart). This constrains whose ideas may get presented here. Indeed, some of the best write-ups are devoid of tables.

A few generalizations appear to cut across these tables:
  • The treatment of hierarchies and markets (and their cognates) is clearer and more standardized than is the treatment of networks.
  • Where networks (and their cognates) are discussed, the tables and related text are often more about social than organizational networks — and the analyst may not be clear about the distinction.
  • “Trust” is often listed as an attribute of networks, but not of hierarchies or markets — a sign the analyst may be thinking more in terms of social than organizational networking. And it’s not a good sign; in my view, some kind of trust is involved in each and every form — it is not unique to networks.
  • Tribes (or cognates, like clans) rarely show up as a distinct form, but their attributes often show up listed under the network form, especially when the analyst is thinking in terms of social networks.
  • There is little consistency to the order in which the forms are listed. Usually because the analyst is a sociologist or economist thinking in terms of the classic dichotomy between hierarchies and markets, either markets or hierarchies usually comes first, and networks later on the right side of a table. But I have seen tables where networks are given the middle position, especially if the analyst views it as an in-between or hybrid form. It depends on the analyst’s focus and rationale. In contrast, I have a specific, evolutionary order in mind: TIMN.

From William Ouchi’s article about clans as an alternative to bureaucracies and markets (1980 — walled but lately here):

Ouchi is a management professor and strategist. This table (p. 137) summarizes his proposal (p. 132) that: “Markets, bureaucracies, and clans are therefore three distinct mechanisms which may be present in differing degrees, in any real organization.” With this, the paper offers a rare early effort to add clans — a variant of tribes — to the established transaction-cost view that hierarchies and markets are the key alternatives. Accordingly, clans may, under some conditions, offer a better way to create efficiencies and avoid organizational failures from a transaction-cost perspective. The conditions Ouchi identifies are where harmony is essential — i.e., where teamwork and a strong sense of community are needed, and individualistic opportunism must be avoided — more so than is the case with hierarchies and markets. His concept of clans draws on Durkheim’s concept of organic solidarity, and he notes how common this was in preindustrial enterprises. But his focus is its rising significance in modern high-tech industries, notably in Japan.

From Walter Powell’s seminal paper on networks as neither hierarchies nor markets (1990):

This is a classic table, the first by an economic sociologist to add networks to the traditional dichotomy of hierarchies and markets as the paradigmatic options that business enterprises face. His particular focus was on craft and high-tech industries. What the table (p. 300) indicates is that, by comparison, network designs are (more?) relational, reputational, open-ended, and nimble. Among the points that the table misses but the text notes is that networks may also excel at gathering and processing information. I also like the point in the text (p. 303) that “In essence, the parties to a network agree to forego the right to pursue their own interests at the expense of others.” However, this kind of behavior is not unique to networks — it often crops up in other organizational settings as well.

From Jane Jacobs book Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992):

Jacobs lays out the “guardian moral syndrome” and the “commercial moral syndrome” as the two key “systems of survival” that lie behind successful social evolution.  For each syndrome, she specifies fifteen precepts (see chart).  Her view tracks with TIMN, for the syndromes correspond roughly to TIMN’s institutional and market forms.  She refers to practices that correspond to TIMN’s tribal form; but rather than separate them out, she embeds them mostly under the guardian syndrome — in my view a shortcoming that makes it more (T) tribal than (+I) administrative in some of her applications.  But I like very much her emphasis on keeping the syndromes separate and in balance.  For additional discussion, see my post about her concept of “monstrous moral hybrids”.

About Alan Paige Fiske’s work on “four elementary forms of sociality” and Relational Model Theory (1992, 2004):

Fiske, a behavioral anthropologist, posits that all social relationships, minor and major, reduce to four forms of interaction: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. People develop their capacities for social interaction in mostly that order, from infancy onward. His own table about these forms is large and detailed; so I’m displaying a simplified table by a proponent. Fiske’s sharing, ranking, and pricing forms correspond to TIMN’s tribal, hierarchical, and market forms. But his equality-matching form, which is mainly about equal-status peer-group behavior, does not correspond to any single form — some attributes fit the network form, but other attributes (e.g., reciprocity, feuding, revenge) fit better under TIMN’s tribal or market form. So the overlap is limited. I hope to do a full post about his interesting work someday.

From Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps’s book on the rise of virtual teams (2000):

In this Toffleresque table (p. 36), management strategists Lipnack and Stamps highlight what they regard as the four ages of organization, beginning millennia ago. The first age is about small groups, but in the text these are equated with nomads and tribes — terms I prefer. The authors explain their distinction between hierarchy and bureaucracy, but I question its significance. Moreover, why markets are not featured as a form of organization remains a mystery to me — but it has something to do, I suppose, with their emphasis on the internal workings of organizations. In any case, the table barely does justice to their ideas. They were early, articulate pioneers in spotting that an “age of networks” was dawning, and in analyzing the rise of “virtual teams.” And I like their point (p. 46) that “The postindustrial model is inclusive of old models, not a replacement for them.”

From Bob Jessop’s paper on governance and metagovernance (2003):

Jessop writes about governance (and what he calls metagovernance) for solving coordination problems, particularly in the European Union. In this chart about the major modalities of governance (p. 3), the terms he prefers — exchange, command, and dialogue — correspond, as two rows indicate, to markets, hierarchies, and networks respectively. I like that it has a row about spatial-temporal horizons — a rarity among these kinds of tables, but an interest of mine. I also like that it has two rows about system failure, a focus of this particular paper.

From Mark Considine and Jenny Lewis’s paper about bureaucracy, network, and enterprise models (2003 — walled):

This paper and its chart (p. 133) are focused on alternatives ways of delivering services — the evolution from traditional bureaucratic, to new corporate, market, and network models of governance. A key finding is that “A new corporate-market hybrid (called ‘enterprise governance’) and a new network type have become significant models for the organization of frontline work in public programs” (p. 131), particularly in Europe and around the British Commonwealth. It’s a pertinent finding, but I don’t find the chart all that illuminating. Moreover, the write-up emphasizes trust and a shared organizational culture as being essential to network designs. This is not a wrong point, but as I’ve already indicated, it may well be that in the final analysis all organizational systems rest on trust and a shared acceptance of the culture most suited to the functioning of that form (even if it is a hierarchy).

From Federico Iannacci and Eve Mitleton–Kelly’s paper on heterarchies (networks) as lying between hierarchies and markets (2005):

This table (online, unpaginated) is from two scholars at the London School of Economics interested in complexity theory, information technology, and open-source networks. It represents their effort to add heterarchies to the usual dichotomy about their being two major forms of organization. What’s unusual here is that they locate heterarchies in between hierarchies and markets. Moreover, they claim that many heterarchies consist of nested hierarchies bound together by loosely coupled networks. So, heterarchies are networks, but not simply so. Indeed, they suggest in a couple spots that “Networks might just be sets of social practices rather than meta– or new organizational forms.” In any case, the table makes the point that heterarchies offer coordination processes different from what’s offered by hierarchical firms or autonomous market actors. And they see this as a boon for developments like open-source software.

From Paul Adler’s and Charles Heckscher’s remarkable paper on collaborative community (2005):

This table (p. 16) distinguishes three approaches to coordination: hierarchy, market, and community. The authors focus is the corporate business realm. Their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have eroded community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that collaborative knowledge production is becoming paramount. What’s needed is a new kind of community principle to go along with the hierarchy and market principles. By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — thus their trifold array is quite standard. But their key point is unusual: They advise against returning to the old form of community, because it would draw sharp distinctions between insiders and outsiders, protect traditional values, and stifle individual autonomy and creativity. Instead, what’s needed is the development of a new, higher form — “collaborative community” — that would engage participants who have multiple identities, stimulate the collective creation of shared value, and place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability. Indeed, they say (p. 37), “without a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized.” Their best examples presently lie in the scientific community and the open-software movement. (Of all the papers I have blurbed about here, I am especially taken with this one. More on this in a future post.)

From Karen Stephenson’s recent article commending heterarchy over hierarchy and network (2009 — walled, but maybe here or here):

This paper strives to make a useful point under a concept of heterarchy: that performance may improve when hierarchical organizations are interconnected by collaborative networks. Yet, the table (p. 6) and some of the text is conceptually problematic, as several of the invited counter-point commenters indicate. The paper’s notion of a network is often more social than organizational — it’s even called a tribal form at one point. And the notion of heterarchy is more what others view as some kind of network — as an organizational network, as a hybrid of a hierarchy and network (a networked organization), or as a networked set of otherwise separate hierarchical organizations (“silos”). Other analysts would probably blend the network and heterarchy columns into one; or perhaps make a case that heterarchy is not so much a distinct major form as a hybrid or amalgam of other forms. It’s good to see the mention of collective goods in the heterarchy column. But it remains unclear to me why networks are associated with personal interests. And there’s that word “trust” again; I’ve already mentioned my view of that. Even so, the text makes a point I like that is not reflected in the table — that heterarchies, not to mention networks, can operate perversely in some contexts, and may have a dark as well as a bright side.

From Kim Cameron’s and Robert Quinn’s work on the “Competing Values Framework” (esp. 2006 — figure on p. 16):

While early versions (in the 1980s) of this framework about organizational culture do not align well with TIMN, the current version does — with its four quadrants about Clan, Hierarchy, Market, and Adhocracy, so long as adhocracies are viewed as networks.  One criticism: they equate Clan with collaboration and Adhocracy with creativity, but adhocracies are as much about collaboration as are clans, just in a different way.  Another qualm:  theirs is not quite an evolutionary framework about corporate culture, but their presentation makes it seem that Hierarchy evolved first, Market second, Clan third (à la modern Japanese business models), and Adhocracy fourth (because of the digital information revolution).  While their point about Japan is sensible, a longer TIMN-type time perspective implies that family/clan models preceded bureaucratic hierarchical ones.  Yet, much of their framework is in keeping with TIMN dynamics:  They observe that organizations may be constructed around a dominant form, yet may draw on the other forms to suit particular goals and contexts.  They observe that the four value systems embody opposed and competing principles; and that using them in effective combinations means dealing with the necessity of paradox, the need for congruence, and the ever-present challenges of tensions and trade-offs.  Here’s a quote (pp. 21-22):  “The two upper quadrants share in common an emphasis on flexibility and dynamism, whereas the two bottom quadrants share an emphasis on stability and control. The two left-hand quadrants focus on internal capability whereas the two right hand quadrants focus on external opportunity. What is important to remember is that the quadrants represent clusters of similar elements and similar orientations, but those elements and orientations are contradictory to those in the diagonal quadrant. The dimensions in the framework, in other words, separate opposite, competing, or paradoxical elements on the diagonal.”  (Thanks to Clay Spinuzzi for spotting this framework.)  [UPDATE — October 17, 2012:  For more about comparing CVF and TIMN, see Spinuzzi's post and our discussion in the comments section here.]

From Clay Spinuzzi’s briefing on “Toward a Typology of Activities” (2013):

Spinuzzi, a professor of rhetoric and writing who is keenly interested in networks, has lately “been trying to characterize different sorts of activities and particularly how hybrids of those types lead to internal contradictions.” His preliminary typology looks at group activities according to whether an object of activity is defined internally or externally, and tacitly or explicitly. This leads to a two-by-two matrix — thus his typology — about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks, as presented in the adjoining graphic. He lists seven main sources for this typology, of which five are among those above, including TIMN. As his work develops, he intends to examine hybrids — activities that combine two or more of the four types — with an eye out for “interference patterns and internal contradictions”. [UPDATE — 10/15/14: Spinuzzi’s article, “Toward a typology of activities,” now appears in the Journal of Business and Technical Communications, 2014, as specified here.]

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Blog roll: a list of pertinent blogs:

I’ve gone looking for blogs where organizational forms get discussed — all the forms, not just networks. Here are the main ones that I have found so far:
Again, suggestions are welcome, if/when someone interested is reading, even if its months ahead from now.

Finally, don’t be surprised if I make small edits to this post in the few days after it appears. I seem to have a tendency to do that.

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