Revisiting Adhocracy: From Rhetorical Revisionism to Smart Mobs

by Timothy E. Dolan


Bennis & Slater 1964 are credited with coining the term “adhocracy” to describe the emergence and rise of networks of diverse expert specialists assembled for specific projects by what Mintzberg 1979 would describe as the “strategic apex”. With bureaucratic forms seen as too rigid to cope with accelerating social and technological change, adhocracy became the model of the emerging administrative norm as envisioned by Toffler 1970. “Adhocracy” has been, however, recently revised in some popular literature and in political rhetoric to describe a kind of unsystematic response by policymakers to emerging issues, generally centered around American fiscal policy and in foreign policy formation universally that resembles Lindbloom’s “muddling through” metaphor than a flexible, but purposeful organizational form. This revisionism has blurred the concept prompting this revisiting of what adhocracy was, and is becoming in terms of a still viable form with applications that point to more diffuse applied networks. This work concludes with a basic descriptive review of “new adhocracy” and some emergent post-adhocratic forms.

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