Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson

A growing number of organizations are meta-organizations; rather than individuals they have other organizations as their members. This comprehensive book explains, in-depth, the unique way in which meta-organizations function, how they differ from organizations with individual membership, and how they are crucial agents in the process of globalization.

Chapter 7: The Dynamics of Meta-organizations

Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


6. Conflicts and decision-making problems Making decisions is a key activity in all organizations. In many meta-organizations, it is largely the only activity. The important thing in Eurelectric is making decisions about the stance on the production of electricity that the organization will take vis-à-vis the EU. Electrical production is carried out by the member organizations – not by the meta-organization. Fédération Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA) makes rules for the game of football but does not take part in any matches. Decision-making is facilitated if an organization’s members represent reasonably similar interests and values. But although meta-organizations are formed on the assumption that the members have common interests, like all organizations they cannot avoid internal conflicts. In this chapter, we argue that meta-organizations harbour even more sources of conflict yet have more limited capacity to resolve conflict than do organizations comprising individuals. We demonstrate the nature of these limitations and then discuss common ways of handling conflicts in meta-organizations. SOURCES OF CONFLICT One cause of conflict among the members of meta-organizations is related to Assertion 2 in Chapter 3 – that organizations are more differentiated than individuals. Although a meta-organization is based on some common characteristics of its members, huge differences routinely occur between the members in other 107 108 Meta-organizations respects (cf. van Waarden 1992: 526). The spectrum of differences is great, making the potential for conflict high among members. Even if all the firms in the Federation of Swedish Industries are industrial manufacturers, they work with...

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