Adhocracy and innovation

This article aims to better understand the relationship between adhocracy and innovation. After defining the concept of adhocracy, we will present the factors that are increasingly leading companies to adopt an adhocratic structure to promote innovation.

Description of Adhocracy

It was Mintzberg (1982) who systematically and precisely presented adhocracy. Very close to the organic structure, especially due to the presence of multiple and complementary skills, specialized knowledge, and creative forces within its ranks, it represents, according to the author, a highly attractive configuration when it comes to implementing a company’s innovation policy. More specifically, its structure is based on:

  • Very limited formalization of behavior.
  • Extensive horizontal specialization based on training.
  • A tendency to group specialists into functional units and deploy them in small units for work execution.
  • Significant use of liaison mechanisms to encourage mutual adjustment within and between teams.
  • Selective decentralization of teams consisting of hierarchical executives and operational experts.

The Existence Framework of Adhocracy

The desire to adapt to a complex and dynamic environment contributes to the emergence of a new type of organization, namely adhocracy. It is clearly situated in an environment that is both complex and dynamic. A dynamic environment requires an organic structure, while a complex environment requires a decentralized structure, and adhocracy is the only structure that remains both organic and relatively decentralized.

Furthermore, it has been concluded that the heterogeneity of the environment encourages organizations to selectively decentralize power to work constellations; in other words, to adopt an adhocratic structure.

Also, due to the dynamic conditions resulting from frequent product changes, a number of organizations are likely attracted to the adhocratic structure. Through his writings, Khandwalla notes that it is actually only competition in the product market that leads to this type of structure.

Adhocracy: A Structure Oriented Towards Innovation

The adhocratic form proves to be a structure geared towards innovation. Indeed, innovation work, because it is unpredictable, is associated with a dynamic environment, and the fact that innovation must be sophisticated means that it is difficult to understand. It therefore corresponds to a complex environment.

In this structure, information and decision-making processes flow in a flexible and informal manner, where they need to be in order to promote innovation. This results in the overflow of the authority structure when necessary.

Innovation means breaking away from established routines. The innovative organization cannot rely on any form of standardization to coordinate its activities because each innovation project represents a new activity for the company.

Adhocracy is recognized as a complex and flexible organization that can adapt to any situation. This is because this structure is capable of learning quickly and also understands its environment through comprehensive listening.

Therefore, it adopts an ad hoc structure, closely tailored to the activity at a given moment. Its mode of coordination is naturally mutual adjustment, which promotes horizontal communication.

Decision-making power is distributed between executives and non-executives at all levels of the hierarchy, depending on the nature of the decisions to be made. In adhocracy, no one monopolizes the power to innovate.

Conclusion

In summary, in this approach, innovation has been understood as a collective process that concerns the entire organization. The question of organizing innovation becomes one of choosing the structure for the entire organization.

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