I had a moment of epiphany yesterday when I realized (yes, it finally hit me) that the kinds of organizations that are described in Shirky's (2008) Here Comes Everybody - online communities, groups that are formed without formally structured organizations - are little more than examples of an evolved form of adhocracy.

From Bolman and Deal (2003):

Adhocracy is a loose, flexible, self-renewing organic form tied together mostly through lateral means... Ad hoc structures are most often found in conditions of turbulence and rapid change. (p. 79)
Turbulence? Rapid change? You can say that again.

Continuing, from Wikipedia (an adhocracy in and of itself):

Characteristics of an adhocracy:
  • highly organic structure[2]
  • little formalization of behavior[2][1]
  • a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment, the key coordinating mechanism, within and between these teams[2][3]
  • low standardization of procedures, because they stifle innovation[1]
  • roles not clearly defined[1]
  • selective decentralization[1]
  • work organization rests on specialized teams[1]
  • power-shifts to specialized teams
  • horizontal job specialization[3]
  • high cost of communication[3]
  • culture based on democractic and non-bureaucratic work [3]
All members of an organization have the authority to make decisions and to take actions affecting the future of the organization. There is an absence of hierarchy.
No hierarchy? So much for the adhocratic nature of the edubloggersphere (no link necessary - you know what I'm talking about).

Nevertheless, in reviewing the list of characteristics presented in Wikipedia, I've intentionally omitted two characteristic points because I'm not sure how they apply to Web 2.0 and ad hoc, online group formation:
  • job specialization based on formal training[2]
  • a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work[2]
You tell me:
  • Is job specialization associated with online groups based on formal training?
  • In online groups, are specialists grouped in functional units but deployed in small, market-based project teams to do their work?
I'm not so sure.

  • Bolman, L. G. and Deal, T. E. (2003). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user Hamed Saber

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