What Exactly Is the Organization?

People talk about “transforming organizations”, “the culture of organizations” and “the lifetime of organizations”. But can someone tell me, what exactly is the organization?

Being independent I have a legal entity for my work. Is that my organization?

I work with 3 freelancers. We call ourselves a team. Is that the organization?

The Management 3.0 course has 32 licensed trainers. Is that an organization?

Don’t forget my books’ translators and reviewers. Are they the organization?

Sure, I would love to discuss transforming my organization, the culture of my organization, and the lifetime of my organization, but only when someone can explain to me what my organization is!

Because I don’t see it.

All I see is a business of networked people creating value.

The Internet age has enabled people and businesses to work together across the world, through a multitude of legal entities and institutions, and conglomerations of informal groups and tribes.

Who, in the 21st century, still cares about “the organization”?

And if you believe “the organization” exists, does that concept still deserve the focus of your energy?


  • How to Change the World - Translations
  • My Happiness Index Is Dead
Related Posts
free book
“How to Change the World”
  • http://profile.typepad.com/williamgill William Gill

    While I definitely see your position on the organisation as the evolution of the current reality… the current reality is, for the most of us, different.
    I work for a company of over 100,000 people. An “organisation” with rules, hierarchies, managers, workers, officers and soldiers. We can argue whether this setup is the best one (the point of culture hacking, I suppose), but it’s still the reality in which I work.
    So, to me, the “organisation” is the _managed_ network of people and processes, organised around a common goal (create shareholder value)…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/adomauskas Adomauskas

    It is true for your case and many other small businesses. What about big organizations? companies that have 100 or more employees? IMHO, they are the organizations? And they deserve our focus and energy to be changed. Hopefully to “business of networked people creating value”.

  • Hass

    I commented this very subject just earlier today! (http://fractalsauna.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/there-is-no-organization/)
    I think this is a half-truth. There is no thinking being called the organisation. No malicious agent sabotaging our efforts. However, any complex adaptive system is composed of agents. We do not cese to exist merely because our bodies are composed of billions of individual cells acting independently at the micro level. We are a large complex adaptive system, a somewhat stable pattern of feedback. I think organisations are much like that. They are systems, or templates, patterns of behaviors and values that are not independent of the people in them and that affect these people to a large degree, changing their behavior from what it otherwise might have been.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p017d3bd1f154970c Stefan Haas

    You might also ask what exactly is an organism? When I say “I am looking forward to see you in Berlin September 25/26” it makes more sense to me when I refer to something different than a bunch of cells – although I have no clue what exactly “organism” means.
    People come and go in big firms, still there are things that do not change and even resist any attempt to change. What do you call that?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/kvistgaard Kvistgaard

    There are boundaries bound by rules, or others determined by choice. And then there is the culture created by the people you spend most of your time with.
    “And if you believe “the organization” exists…”
    I do.
    “does that concept still deserve the focus of your energy?”
    Some of it, yes.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/sbraun58wordpresscom Sbraun58.wordpress.com

    Your collaboration with trainers / translators / freelancers may be seen as organizations. These organizations may be transient – only existent for one project, but they exist.
    Networked professionals may be seen as a transformed approach to “the organization”; more flexible and agile.
    As some others already mentioned: there are lots of “old organizations” out there yet. And I bet they will also exist for quite some time.
    So, I think “the organization” does exist and will exist in the future.

  • http://blog.ralfw.de Ralf Westphal

    An organization is a social system with a mission, I´d say.
    State a mission, identify the people collaborating to accomplish the mission. Presto, that´s the organization.
    So it´s not useless to talk about organizations. It´s just useless to assume there are just a few or them to be static. Instead their number is varying and probably increasing.
    In your article you named a couple of different missions. So why shouldn´t there be several organizations? If a mission is in peril, then there is a social system to work with to get it back on track.
    Trying to get rid of the term organization seem to me like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

How to Change the World - free Workout - free