This modern structure includes the linking of numerous, separate organizations to optimize their interaction in order to accomplish a common, overall goal. An example is a joint venture to build a complex, technical systems such as the space shuttle. Another example is a network of construction companies to build a large structure. Virtual Organization
This emerging form is based on organization members interacting with each other completely, or almost completely, via telecommunications. Members may never actually meet each other. See Virtual Teams
These teams usually include from 5-15 people and are geared to produce a product or service. Members provide a range of the skills needed to produce the product. The team is granted sufficient authority and access to resources to produce their product in a timely fashion. The hallmark of a self-managed team is that members indeed manage their own group, i.e., they manage access to resources, scheduling, supervision, etc. Team members develop their own process for identifying and rotating members in managerial roles. Often, authority at any given time rests with whomever has the most expertise about the current activity or task in the overall project. Often members are trained in various problem-solving techniques and team-building techniques. These teams work best in environments where the technologies to deliver the product or service are highly complex and the marketplace and organization environments are continually changing. Self-managed teams pose a unique challenge for the traditional manager. It can be extremely difficult for him or her to support empowerment of the self-managed team, taking the risk of letting go of his or her own control. Learning Organizations
In an environment where environments are continually changing, it's critical that organizations detect and quickly correct its own errors. This requires continuous feedback to, and within, the organization. Continual feedback allows the organization to `unlearn' old beliefs and remain open to new feedback, uncolored by long-held beliefs. In a learning organization, managers don't direct as much as they facilitate the workers' applying new information and learning from that experience. Managers ensure time to exchange feedback, to inquire and reflect about the feedback, and then to gain consensus on direction. Peter Senge, noted systems theorist, points out in his book, The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday, 1990, p. 14), that the learning organization is "continually expanding its capacity to create its future ... for a learning organization, `adaptive learning' must be joined by `generative learning,' learning that enhances our capacity to create." Self-Organizing Systems
Self-organizing systems have the ability to continually change their structure and internal processes to conform to feedback with the environment. Some writers use the analogy of biological systems as self-organizing systems. Their ultimate purpose is to stay alive and duplicate. They exist in increasing complexity and adapt their structures and forms to accommodate this complexity. Ultimately, they change structure dramatically to adjust to the outer environment. (Some assert that self-managed groups are self-organizing systems, although others assert that self-managed groups are not because an ultimate purpose is assigned to team members). A self-organizing system requires a strong current goal or purpose. It requires continual feedback with its surrounding environment. It requires continual reference to a common set of values and dialoguing around these values. It requires continued and shared reflection around the system's current processes. The manager of this type of organization requires high value on communication and a great deal of patience -- and the ability to focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Focus is more on learning than on method.