Bureaucratic Hierarchy vs. Hierarchy

E. Forrest Christian Theory Leave a Comment

Anne-Marie Scheidegger. 1997. “Organizational structures in multinational corporations from the perspective of global communication networks: Postmodern literature analysis and case study”. [PDF]

Scheiegger makes a decent distinction between the bureaucratic hierarchy and hierarchy per se within the organization.

However, let us take care not to use the terms ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘hierarchy’ synonymously, which could lead to the wrong proclamation of the end of hierarchy. No alternative organization can do entirely without hierarchy. Even the revolutionary lattice organization introduced by W. L. Gore & Associates, for instance, uses three levels of hierarchy, but it has a different function. For instance, communication takes place independent of the hierarchy. Therefore, the bureaucratic hierarchy has become obsolete, but not hierarchy as a structuring principle per se. Instead other principles such as the ‘team approach’ or the ‘network organization’ complement the hierarchy. Such alternative organization principles may well receive higher priority. [pp 5]

She defines bureaucratic hierarchy earlier as relying “on restricted communication and the monopoly of knowledge”. I think that this understanding of the current meaning of the term “bureaucracy” should give us pause before we use it.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps individuals and companies find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants, both as individuals and as leaders of organizations at least as diverse. [contact]

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