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 Attempts at HYBRID ORGs 


Many ORGs are creating many hybrid forms of structure and process as they struggle for competitive success. These attempts can be arrayed at several points along a spectrum between strict Bureaucracy and full Adhocracy at opposite ends. 

To clarify: forming hybrids across the divide between Bureaucratic and Adhocratic ORG models is not considered "Impossible" but certainly "Difficult" and calling for special ingenuity, which often  involves Reframing, conflict management, ambidextrous management, and always requires honesty, openness, courage and compassion among the participants.

           Here are the main patterns:


  0) Classic Bureaucratic form. 


  1) Bureaucratic form (including chain/ladder of command) plus Project Teams & Taskforces , all core staff in units & departments ("home rooms") and traditional "Org. Chart" pyramid.


   2) Bureaucratic form plus Project Teams & Taskforces  (as in 1 above) plus Top Management Team (TMT).


  3) Mostly Matrix - project/divisional teams are responsible to 2 or 3 bosses (product, function, region). Full 3-D matrix is often watered down.


  4) Networked collection of empowered Project Teams & Taskforces, each self-managed, within guidelines, responsible to upper management.

Strategy is broadly set by the center but also emergent from network.


       4a) Top managers meet but do not take wholistic view for ORG. They act as "Barons" representing their own divisions and groupings which function quite independently. Concern: loss of potential synergies. 


       4b) Top managers act as a Top Management Team, caring for the ORG as a whole, not just their own segment, as in (a).

Concern - If TMT (center) wants major change of direction will it be implemented? 


  5) Loosely coupled "organic network". Narrower version of (4) with much more outsourcing (including most production). TMT and central staff  recruit and coordinate large network/s of outsourced suppliers  


        (Options above adapted from Gareth Morgan, ch. 27.) 


An ORG may shift from one of these versions to another as its leaders shift their attention and priorities, as units shift their interrelationships, and as they change the way they address other Both/And challenges. Equilibrium is a transitory state but  ORGs with these kinds of Adhocracy can survive (not always) and achieve high levels of performance. 



Let's assume that some Both/And challenges are managed informally by core members of the ORG but other challenges linger, causing problems and frustration. Then managers might get involved. Some ORGs are prepared for this; others have to learn as beginners. This is where the disciplines of ORG Learning are needed. And this is where Trust and the history of human relations in this ORG become crucial factors in facilitating or limiting the possibilities for negotiated improvements. How the ORG is structured can also make a difference.


So What?  A framework for close-up scrutiny


When we want to better understand a certain ORG situation one of the first questions is : 

where does it stand along this range of hybrid options. Then, given the usual basics of business model, markets, history, etc., we can bring together those most affected so they can explore their various perceptions of the problem, management priorities and challenges.

Adhoc networks of many work relationships between many projects, sharing staff, coordinating each product with others, all at different stages in development, crossing boundaries where priorities and realities are different, yesterday's progress just unravelled when we learned that ... but now a new possibility might have opened up.  


In any of the Adhocracy hybrids there will be no simple story.  Back to basics:  

This ORG has a mission and a business model. How do we make happy customers, raising the bar constantly? If something is happening that threatens that complex process it must be corrected right away, starting with whoever is closest. A manager's job is to ensure that the whistle blower has the necessary support. This is in keeping with Lean Management.

It's all about people who work together learning how to collaborate better in an ORG that has eliminated the old principles of Bureaucracy (i) "just follow the Standard Operating Handbook exactly" (ii) in case of doubt ask your boss

(iii) wait for the answer (that boss may have to ask his own busy boss).

A very innovative project will need more costly new capital equipment but top management is on a campaign to cap these costs because they believe there could be more sharing of equipment and less tailor-made equipment. ...


So I hope this framework of Both/And Challenges can be helpful and I encourage its use in case studies and beyond.








Paul Carroll, Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, NY: Crown,  1993


Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround,  NY: Harper, 2002


Gareth Morgan, Creative Organization Theory, London: Sage, 1989.


Richard T. Pascale, Managing on the Edge: How the Smartest Companies Use Conflict to Stay Ahead, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.


Michael S. Malone,  Bill and Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company. NY: Portfolio, 2007.


Barry Sugarman, "Dynamic Capability Seen Through a Duality-Paradox Lens: A Case of Radical Innovation at Microsoft."  in Research in Organizational Change & Development, vol. 22, June 2014 by Emerald. 

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