An adhocracy is the direct opposite of bureaucracy. The former is unstructured, decentralized and, at least in theory, responsive. In a bureaucracy, the structure is more important than the people. An adhocracy, on the other hand, is designed to bring out the best in people.
A bureaucracy is “a hierarchical administrative system designed to deal with large quantities of work in a routine manner, largely by adhering to a set of strict and impersonal rules,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of Business and Management. “It is characterized by its permanence and stability, its body of experience and precedent, and its absence of a reliance on individuals.” Which more or less sums up what an adhocracy is not.
Standardized work processes and outputs
Standardized skills and norms
The machine bureaucracy: This has highly specialized but routine operating tasks, formal procedures, lots of self-generated rules and regulations, formalized communication, large operating units and relatively centralized decision-making. It also has a lot of what Mintzberg calls “technostructure”— platoons of managers, planners and accountants. The coordination mechanism is the standardization of procedures and outputs—and that is the responsibility of the technocrats. So they wield considerable power. Think General Motors.
The entrepreneurial startup: This is low on technostructure but high in centralized power, invariably in the hands of the founder or chief executive. So the coordination mechanism takes the form of direct supervision and control, and the boss and senior managers wield most influence. This type of organization tends to be flexible and informal, inspiring loyalty while not doing much in the way of planning. Most firms pass through this stage in their early years.
In an age of accelerating change, organizations such as these, with their ability to adapt and adjust, were the most likely to succeed.