Fig. – (Organizational Complexity trough History) Four forms behind the Organization and Evolution of all societies (David Ronfeldt TIMN). Each form also seems to be triggered by major societal changes in communications and language. Oral speech enabled tribes (T), the written word enabled institutions (I), the printed word fostered regional and global markets (M), and the electric (digital) word is empowering worldwide networks (N). [in David Ronfeldt, "Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A framework about Societal Evolution", RAND Corporation, Document Number: P-7967, (1996). PDF link]

[...] Organizational complexity is defined as the amount of differentiation that exists within different elements constituting the organization. This is often operationalized as the number of different professional specializations that exist within the organization. For example, a school would be considered a less complex organization than a hospital, since a hospital requires a large diversity of professional specialties in order to function. Organizational complexity can also be observed via differentiation in structure, authority and locus of control, and attributes of personnel, products, and technologies. Contingency theory states that an organization structures itself and behaves in a particular manner as an attempt to fit with its environment. Thus organizations are more or less complex as a reaction to environmental complexity. An organization’s environment may be complex because it is turbulent, hostile, diverse, technologically complex, or restrictive. An organization may also be complex as a result of the complexity of its underlying technological core. For example, a nuclear power plant is likely to have a more complex organization than a standard power plant because the underlying technology is more difficult to understand and control. There are numerous consequences of environmental and organizational complexity. Organizational members, faced with overwhelming and/or complex decisions, omit, tolerate errors, queue, filter, abstract, use multiple channels, escape, and chunk in order to deal effectively with the complexity. At an organizational level, an organizational will respond to complexity by building barriers around its technical core; by smoothing input and output transactions; by planning and predicting; by segmenting itself and/or becoming decentralized; and by adopting rules.
Complexity science offers a broader view of organizational complexity – it maintains that all organizations are relatively complex, and that such complexity arises that complex behavior is not necessarily the result of complex action on the behalf of a single individual’s effort; rather, complex behavior of the whole can be the result of loosely coupled organizational members behaving in simple ways, acting on local information. Complexity science posits that most organizational behavior is the result of numerous events occurring over extended periods of time, rather than the result of some smaller number of critical incidents. [...] in Dooley, K. (2002), “Organizational Complexity,” International Encyclopedia of Business and Management, M. Warner (ed.), London: Thompson Learning, p. 5013-5022. (PDF link)

The Internet has given us a glimpse of the power of networks. We are just beginning to realize how we can use networks as our primary form of living and working. David Ronfeldt has developed the TIMN framework to explain this – Tribal (T); Institutional (I); Markets (M); Networks (N). The TIMN framework shows how we have evolved as a civilization. It has not been a clean progression from one organizing mode to the next but rather each new form built upon and changed the previous mode. He sees the network form not as a modifier of previous forms, but a form in itself that can address issues that the three other forms could not address. This point is very important when it comes to things like implementing social business (a network mode) within corporations (institutional + market modes). Real network models (e.g. wirearchy) are new modes, not modifications of the old ones.

Another key point of this framework is that Tribes exist within Institutions, Markets and Networks. We never lose our affinity for community groups or family, but each mode brings new factors that influence our previous modes. For example, tribalism is alive and well in online social networks. It’s just not the same tribalism of several hundred years ago. Each transition also has its hazards. For instance, while tribal societies may result in nepotism, networked societies can lead to deception. Ronfeldt states that the initial tribal form informs the other modes and can have a profound influence as they evolve:

Balanced combination is apparently imperative: Each form (and its realm) builds on its predecessor(s). In the progression from T through T+I+M+N, the rise of a new form depends on the successes (and failures) achieved through the earlier forms. For a society to progress optimally through the addition of new forms, no single form should be allowed to dominate any other, and none should be suppressed or eliminated. A society’s potential to function well at a given stage, and to evolve to a higher level of complexity, depends on its ability to integrate these inherently contradictory forms into a well-functioning whole. A society can constrain its prospects for evolutionary growth by elevating a single form to primacy — as appears to be a tendency at times in market-mad America. [in David Ronfeldt, "Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A framework about Societal Evolution", RAND Corporation, Document Number: P-7967, (1996). PDF link]

Finally, on these areas (far behind the strict topic of organizational topology and complex networks), let me add two books. One his from José Fonseca, a friend researcher I first met in 2001, during a joint interview for the Portuguese Idéias & Negócios Magazine, for his 5th anniversary (old link) embracing innovation in Portugal. His book entitled “Complexity & Innovation in Organizations” (above) was published in December that year, 2001 by Routledge. The other one is more recent and from Ralph Stacey, “Complexity and Organizational Reality: Uncertainty and the Need to Rethink Management After the Collapse of Investment Capitalism” (below), Routledge, 2010. Even if, Ralph as many other past seminal books on this topic. Both, have worked together at the Hertfordshire University.

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