Hierarchy vs Wirearchy ? Or only complementarity ?


Wirearchy is a very interesting concept I discovered weeks ago from a post from John Husband. Not that new (he’s been talking about that for a long time) but interesting enough to dig further.

Facts are obvious : new tools allow a new kind of information flows, because they’ree generated by peope. Those flows allow new kind of interactions, outside what’s been built by the organization, what creates an informal organisation. Not a counter organisation, but an actual and informal one which permanency only depends on people’s needs.

Beyond the concept, what is interesting is how it can materalize. We know companies used to work as social networks for ages but in limited human perimeters. Social software allows this perimeter to grow, even becoming enterprise wide. And since we’re talking about tools we can go further : analyzing those networks in order to know how the enterprise really works and identify which kind of interactions have to be facilitated.

What prevails in such relations is the need for being more efficient by connecting people, informations and expertises, the ones through the others. So, preventing those networks to express themselves would be stupid. What would be useful would be to use them to understant what makes connections easier and and how to improve formal organization. In this purpose an organigraph will improve the traditionnal organizational chart (and not replace it !).

Companies seems to be afraid of this new kind of informal organization, although I’m convinced it’s compatible with the present formal structure. Perhaps this kind of approach may make them feel more comfortable :

• Because hierachy is a command and responsability chain and has nothing to do with the way people work. Perhaps it’s on the only point on which I may disagree with Husban who thinks hierarchies don’t have to remain static. In my opinion that doesn’t make any difficulty since hierarchy is about command and responsability and wirearchy is about work : both are complementary.

[Paragrapg edited after John’s comment : when I wrote his post I didn’t know if he meant organization will have to be both horizontal and vertical or horizontal only…]

• Because those practices may (must ?) take place on a defined process framework (which don’t prevent from cleaning up some process if needed