Organizations in the contemporary world have to adapt and innovate in order to compete if they are firms, or to meet society's growing expectations if they are public service providers. It has become increasingly obvious that conventional forms of organization are not well suited to support these requirements, and a spectrum of alternative approaches is therefore being tried out. These alternatives are usually described as “new organizational forms.”

The emergence of new organizational forms was heralded by Tom Burns and G. M. Stalker's path breaking 1961 book on The Management of Innovation, which identified an “organic” alternative to the machine-like approach of conventional organization. By the 1980s, the so-called “post-bureaucratic” organization was identified, in principle at least, as a clear alternative to the bureaucratic form that had for over a century reflected the philosophy of large-scale, hierarchical, and formalized business. It took until the early 1990s, however, for articles on new and alternative organizational forms to appear with any regularity and for case studies of companies that had applied such forms to become available. Even today, there are remarkably few books that address the subject.

The pace of experimentation and innovation in organizational practice, stimulated by major economic and technological changes, has therefore outstripped the ability of writers on organization to capture and explain what is taking place. ...

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