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Special collection: "Fading Hierarchies and the Emergence of New Forms of Organization"

Organizations frequently reorganize, whether to better address the needs of their customers or employees or to simply improve efficiency. Often such organizational redesign involves a delayering of the organizational hierarchy and the delegation of decision rights to lower levels. In pursuit of better performance or adaptability, some organizations adopt more radical approaches and eliminate hierarchy to let their employees self-organize.

Increasingly, organizations seem to be experimenting with less and less hierarchy, challenging traditional organizational forms, and employing solutions that until recently have been considered too niche to study. This special collection addresses our incomplete understanding of such novel, non-hierarchical forms by presenting cases and highlighting several important developments relevant for new forms of organizing.

This special collection includes three articles and an editorial.

Griffith, Nordbäck, Sawyer, and Rice (“Field study of complements to supervisory leadership in more and less flexible work settings”) develop and test a conceptual model that shows that complements, rather than substitutes, may help managers adopt a supervisory leadership style that considers recent developments in organizations, such as electronic communication, alternative workplace usage, and work redesign, that does not require feedback from supervisors.

Livijn (“Navigating in a hierarchy: how middle managers adapt macro design”) examines the role of middle managers during an organizational reorganization. Her case study depicts a new role of middle managers that requires that they engage less in vertical communication with senior executives, and instead increase lateral communication to develop solutions in a decentralized and more collaborative way.

Kolbjørnsrud (“Collaborative organizational forms: on communities, crowds, and new hybrids”) investigates how three archetypes—hierarchy, market, and community—are prevalent in new organizational forms. The paper showcases how new hybrid organizational forms rely on specific combinations of these different archetypes, e.g. in adhocracy or in crowd contests, and discusses the facilitating role of technology.

Finally, in “Fading hierarchies and the emergence of new forms of organization,” we elaborate on the question of ‘what is new’ and point to the importance of case studies for extracting novel developments in organization design. We point out that such novel developments may at first resemble what has been reported in prior literature, but they can also become essential stepping stones for the development of new practices and theories.

—Stephan Billinger and Maciej Workiewicz, co-Guest Editors

Field study of complements to supervisory leadership in more and less flexible work setting
Terri L. Griffith, Emma S. Nordbäck, John E. Sawyer and Ronald E. Rice
Journal of Organization Design 2018 7:10
Published on: 26 September 2018

Case Study
Navigating in a hierarchy: how middle managers adapt macro design
Marianne Livijn
Journal of Organization Design 2019 8:7
Published on: 30 March 2019

Collaborative organizational forms: on communities, crowds, and new hybrids
Vegard Kolbjørnsrud
Journal of Organization Design 2018 7:11
Published on: 19 October 2018

Point of View
Fading hierarchies and the emergence of new forms of organization
Stephan Billinger and Maciej Workiewicz
Journal of Organization Design 2019 8:17
Published on: 30 September 2019

Guest Editors
Stephan Billinger, University of Southern Denmark
Børge Obel, Aarhus University, Denmark
Charles Snow, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Maciej Workiewicz, ESSEC Business School, France