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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.
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Chapter 8: Meta-organizations and Individual-based Organizations

Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson


7. The dynamics of meta-organizations The issue of change is central to organization theory. Organizations are expected to be able to change in order to adjust to a changing environment. But the conditions for change are different in meta-organizations than in individual-based organizations. Many of the characteristics particular to meta-organizations that we have discussed in previous chapters seem, in fact, to be obstacles to change. Yet meta-organizations run a high risk of greater change – a risk of being dissolved. Their dissolution may be the answer to success as well as failure. In this chapter we discuss change in meta-organizations, arguing that many metaorganizations can best be understoood as being in a transitional phase between a weak organization with strong members and a strong organization with weak members. SURVIVAL OR DISSOLUTION Organizational change benefits from an ample supply of ideas about change. The conflicts among members that we described in Chapter 6 are a source for ideas about the ways in which the organization’s tasks and ways of working should be changed. As the meta-organization’s forms tend to be weakly institutionalized and called into question, there are usually many ideas about new ways of organizing – about the distribution of influence among members, for example; about requirements for similarity; and about the distribution of influence and work between the members and the meta-organization. 132 The dynamics of meta-organizations 133 Ideas about change are one thing; the capacity to implement them is another. The conditions for actually achieving change in meta-organizations differ from...

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