Modern organizational design methods: Do they really differ?

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Lean, Agile, and Holacracy are all organizational design theories that are popular and are implemented in organizations big and small. They are different design theories. But they have similar basic assumptions. They all try to improve an organization by changing the organizational structure from a bureaucratic regime to a (hyper-)flexible regime. The goals, design parameters, and design logic of the design theories are compared based on a framework that underpins the (hyper-)flexible organizational structure. This reveals several differences. Holacracy is an incomplete design theory that only focuses on the control structure. It has a different philosophy based on sensitizing the organization and decentralized decision making. This makes the Holacracy control structure suited for a hyper-flexible regime. Lean and Agile are complete design theories. These theories present similar production structures but they also present differences. Agile does present a control structure that resembles a bureaucratic organization. Problems of slow and inadequate regulation can be expected with such a structure. Agile focuses on innovation. This is reflected in the design of independent teams with operational regulatory potential. Continuous improvement is focused on learning from experience and gathering expertise. This makes Agile suited for innovative and unpredictable processes. Lean focuses on efficiency. Teams work more sequentially interdependent. Continuous improvement is focused on improving the infrastructure of the organization. This makes Lean suited for predicable processes. Lean does present principles for good working conditions but compared to Agile and Holacracy extra attention is required to not lose sight of quality of work principles.
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