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Adhocracy is a type of organization being antonymous to bureaucracy. The term was first popularized in 1970 by Alvin Toffler[1], and has since become often used in the theory of management of organizations (particularly online organizations), further developed by academics such as Henry Mintzberg.



The word is a portmanteau of the Latin ad hoc, meaning 'for the purpose', and the suffix -cracy, from the ancient Greek kratein (κρατείν), meaning 'to govern'[1], and is thus a heteroclite.


Robert H. Waterman, Jr. defined adhocracy as "any form of organization that cuts across normal bureaucratic lines to capture opportunities, solve problems, and get results".[2] For Henry Mintzberg, an adhocracy is a complex and dynamic organizational form.[3] It is different from bureaucracy; like Toffler, Mintzberg considers bureaucracy a thing of the past, and adhocracy one of the future.[1] When done well, adhocracy can be very good at problem solving and innovations[1] and thrives in a changing environment[3]. It requires sophisticated and often automated technical systems to develop and thrive.[1]

Characteristics of an adhocracy:

  • highly organic structure[3]
  • little formalization of behavior[3][1]
  • job specialization based on formal training[4]
  • a tendency to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work[3]
  • a reliance on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment within and between these teams[3][5]
  • low standardization of procedures[1]
  • roles not clearly defined[1]
  • selective decentralization[1]
  • work organization rests on specialized teams[1]
  • power-shifts to specialized teams
  • horizontal job specialization[5]
  • high cost of communication[5] (Dramatically reduced in the Networked Age)
  • culture based on non-bureaucratic work [5]

All members of an organization have the authority within their areas of specialization and in coordination with other members to make decisions and to take actions affecting the future of the organization. There is an absence of hierarchy.

Examples of adhocracies include construction projects in which various independent specialized entities are assembled and coordinated at various phases to perform their tasks and move on upon completion. Another example of an adhocracy is the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)that oversees the coordination of local, state, federal and non-profit organizations in any given national emergency.[citation needed] Specific military operations can also be characterized as following the adhocracy model in form and function.

Alvin Toffler claimed in his book Future Shock that adhocracies will get more common and are likely to replace bureaucracy. He also wrote that they will most often come in form of a temporary structure, formed to resolve a given problem and dissolved afterwards. An example are cross-department task forces.

Downsides of adhocracies can include "half-baked actions", personnel problems stemming from organization's temporary nature, extremism in suggested or undertaken actions, and threats to democracy and legality rising from adhocracy's often low-key profile.[5] To address those problems, researches in adhocracy suggest a model merging adhocracy and bureaucracy, the bureau-adhocracy.[5]

Use in fiction

The term is also used to describe the form of government used in the science fiction novels Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bob Travica, New Organizational Designs: Information Aspects, Ablex/Greenwood, 1999, ISBN 1567504035, Google Print, p.7
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f Mintzberg's Organizational Configurations
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e f Bob Travica, New Organizational Designs: Information Aspects, Ablex/Greenwood, 1999, ISBN 1567504035, p.8


External links



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