Holonic Model - Organization Structures

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  • Topic: Ant, Emergence, Ant colony
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Organizational Theory and Design

* From Ants to Bluetooth : Exploring the Holonic Enterprise * United we stand, divided we fall : The role of culture in an organization

From Ants to Bluetooth
Exploring the Holonic Enterprise

The ants in my kitchen formed a steady trail to the sugar container. One of nature’s simple yet fascinating creations is the ant. Every member of this species possess identical qualities: disciplined, hardworking and focused. Together they strive to create and sustain an ant colony, collect food and keep the queen ant safe. We can examine the features, extent, nature and overarching characteristics of an ant hill and in doing so recognize that our thinking of what constitutes the hill connotes the dynamic emergent properties of the countless interactions and transactions that take place over time among all the individual members of the community of interest, all within their unique ecological contexts.(Ulieru, Este). If we analyze an ant, at the individual level, take into account its various organs and behavioral patterns, it would not be possible to predict that thousands of this individual subunit will create the colony which they reside in. The only way the output can be realized is if we took multiple ants together and decided to watch their behavior. The aggregate behavior of all these individual objects would render the output Holonic and generative and would define the macro behavior of the behavior of the individual unit. The same concept can be extended to what is termed as a Holonic enterprise. The Holonic enterprise comprises of several enterprises working together to produce a single larger output. The term Holon was coined by Arthur Koestler to denominate entities simultaneously exhibiting both autonomy and cooperation capabilities which demand balancing of the contradictory forces that define each of these properties on a behavioral level. The discussion on Holonic enterprise model would be incomplete without mentioning the concept of multi-agent systems (MAS). MAS are a dynamical system in which agents exchange and organize information through reasoning into knowledge about the assigned goal. There are several examples of technologies such as Bluetooth and Anthill project each of which is based on concepts having to do with distributed networked MAS with many purpose-built abilities (sensing, reporting, acting, collaborating) coupled with varying capabilities for hybrid peer-to-peer(P2P) and networked server based communications.

Fig 1. Dynamic Virtual Clustering Pattern
in the Holonic Enterprise

An example of Holonic setup is Empire Plastics (Daft, 2012), an organization whose production is dependent on several supplier organization which take up tasks to help deliver the end product. One of the projects taken up by the company is to increase the production rate of oleic acid in the factory. A Holonic enterprise has three levels of granularity, as illustrated in Figure 1.( Ulieru, Walker, Brennan ) The first is Global Inter-Enterprise Collaborative Level which in this case would be Empire Plastics. In this setup, there are contractors such as Western construction and Teknibuild. The model enables the system to be able to deal with untoward exigencies in the process and replace a partner who is unable to deliver or perform for some reason. Thus, it is flexible, can handle unexpected disturbances through the dynamic reconfiguration which is possible in the open system it functions in. The second level of granularity is the Intra-Enterprise Level where each enterprise organizes its own internal resources to deliver on time according to the requirements of the collaborative cluster. There is planning and dynamic scheduling which takes place for the resources at this level and that allows configuration functionally as well as makes the system flexible. For instance, in the Empire plastic model, Western constructions and Teknibuild...
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