Platforms as the new bureaucracy , or beyond towards non-bureaucratic organizations ?

Clear signs tell us that, today, organizations that embraced a post-industrial transformation and defeated the bureaucracy and rigidity of linear business models are the masters of the market.

Excerpted from an excellent discussion of the implications of David Graeber’s new book, the Utopia of Rules, by Simone Cicero:

(we recommend reading the whole essay!)

““Only” fifteen years after Himanen’s book, a prophet of business thinking such as Geoffrey Moore looks at Coase’s seminal “The Nature of the Firm” and explores the deep changes that the digitally transformed economy is having on the structure of the firm itself. According to Moore, the transition to post-industrial, information, age is finally getting to maturation and having effects not only on the business models (with the rise of the “age of access” and “on demand” economy) but also onto the very nature of the firm itself.
The growing demand for the firm to be able to act as a pivotal point – interact and collaborate with partners and peers – is being deeply disruptive to the hierarchical and bureaucratic management structures that provided the motivation for the existence of an entire class of middle-management, middle-class jobs for most of the twentieth century.

The transition from corporate bureaucracies to digital empires is, according to Greg Satell, so relevant that he defines Platforms as “bureaucracies for the networked age“.

Ultimately you go then, gradually and with huge differences between different industries, from an industrial perspective, of a linear relationship between firms and the market to one which is networked and post-industrial. While in the first, the company (capital) owns the means of production and workers access them to produce products and services to be marketed, In the latter the market is reticular and indistinguishable from the society, the means of production are dispersed and accessible and companies have the main aim of connecting supply and demand and facilitating the “citizen producer”.

It is therefore impossible, recognizing how the maturation and the ubiquity of the networks and the social web transformed the structure of society in a “grid”, not to overcome the “linear” logic of business typical of industrial production. Is therefore necessary, in companies and organizations – and eventually in ourselves – to adopt a new attitude, a new work ethic.

But what can then be the guiding spirit, the basic ethics of this transformation? Himanen (and others) identify this in the hacker ethic. In the hacker ethic of work, work has to be interesting and fun and, above all, must create value for the worker, the organization and for society as a whole. Workers also must have freedom to organize their work in a way that is more functional to reach their own goals and in the manner that best fits their needs and insights.

A lot of Himanen’s vision can be also seen in the work of historical leaders of organization transformation such as Peter Drucker or in the “learning organization” advocated by Peter Senge where “…people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together”

Exactly in 2001, in conjunction with Himanen’s book release, we witnessed what can be considered among the first incarnations of hacker thinking in the world of production in the information age: in February of that year, in fact, a group of software developers, met to discuss new practices and methods of software development and gave birth to the “Agile Manifesto”.

This manifesto, made ??of 12 principles, and four Key aspects was a real break with the world of hierarchies, long term contracts and bureaucratic companies that, in most cases, even after almost 15 years, is still the market that we know and live every day as professionals.

* Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

* Working software over comprehensive documentation

* Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

* Responding to change over following a plan

The vision embodied by the Agile Manifesto was actually emerging from a cultural background inspired in part from the work of Richard Stallman – the last “true hacker” according to Steven Levy – and other Free software activists.”

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