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User orientation and autonomous work groups

Large commercial organisations have moved away from hierarchical organisations to models where there are relatively autonomous groups of front line staff, supported by the technical staff and management. Control is exercised by the users/consumers and their requirements, translated through information and operational systems that highlight the degree to which consumer demand is being successfully met. The demands of a ‘Just in Time’ system of production, for example, provide the structure and discipline to front line staff formerly supplied by hierarchical managers. The manager’s task in this case is to assess variances in performance and ensure the system is integrated effectively. This thinning of hierarchies and distributing of responsibility to front line teams has been termed heterarchical where there are many nodes of power and responsibility. Another version is provided by The Visa Company (jointly owned by its member banks) which developed what its founder Dee Hock called a ‘chaordic’ organisation, combining organisation and chaos. For social innovation, such models are particularly applicable to large charities and to public services.