Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

Network Organizations

I first came in contact with the idea of an alternative form of organizing as a network in April of 1985. I was part of a small-group of early online pioneers who were experimenting with text based group communications. A group of about 50 people met over a long weekend in New York City and agree to create a professional network called the Electronic Networking Association.

Two of the people involved in that meeting were Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack.  Jeff and Jessica were already writing about network organizations and they have subsequently written several books related to network organizations and virtual teams. In one of their books, The Age of the Network: Organizing Principles for the 21st-Century (John Wiley & Sons, 1996), they started a list of characteristics to contrast a traditional organizational hierarchy with a network organization. Here’s that list:

Traditional Organization   Network Organization
(Mechanistic)                                  (Organic)

Extrinsic purpose                          Intrinsic purpose
Imposed Control                            Self-Control
Specialized                                        Generalized
Dependence                                      Independence

Formal Channels                            Voluntary Relations
Commands                                        Consultation
Appointed Leaders                        Natural Leaders
Formal Jobs                                      Loosely Defined Jobs
Rigid Levels                                       Flexible Levels

Over the years I have made some personal additions to that list that includes the following:

Parent-Child Relationships        Adult-Adult Relationships
Need to Ask Permission              You Can Act on Your Own Initiative
Someone Promotes You             You Promote Yourself
Work for Someone (boss)            Work with Others (colleagues)
Position and Title Oriented        Relationship and Bandwidth Oriented
Big Power                                           Low-Power
Big Muscle                                         Big Brain
Standardization                              Diversification
King and Council Model              Network and Node Model

In future notes I will discuss some of these characteristics further. Do any of these concepts resonate with you? Do you see them in changing cultural norms?  Do you have any examples of network organizations that you are part of, or that you have observed?

I look forward to your comments and links to related information.

Thanks – Chairman Ed

PS  I am still learning about the WordPress blogging software and I do not know how to make two well ordered columns.  Tab keys do not seem to work.

4 responses to “Network Organizations

  1. Ronald Lee Henderson June 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm


    This is interesting. I don’t know how many folks there are out there that will find this interesting and be willing to enter into a conversation.
    I believe that a key to understanding this is understanding the power and potential of a human relationship.


  2. Pingback: Image of a Network Organization « Chairman Ed

  3. Pingback: Network Organization Concepts and Tools « Chairman Ed

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