Organizations, by definition, are entities with boundaries. External boundaries separate a company from its suppliers and customers and define its geographic reach. Internal boundaries separate the departments between each other, management from employees. Such lines of differentiation have been necessary. Different departments in the organization work towards the common goal the overall success of the business.
However, companies that thrive within the new environment of global competition, rapidly changing technologies, and shifting markets are characterized by not having many boundaries. The new model of success is defined as “boundaryless” organization, a term created by Jack Welch during his term as CEO of GE. The borders, along vertical, horizontal, external, and geographic dimensions allow for an easy flow of information and ideas in all parts of the organization. The examples of boundaryless organizations would be Boing, and Apple, both of the companies try to remove hierarchy to empower employees and teams.
In boundaryless hierarchies, employees are empowered to make decisions; therefore decisions are made by people closest to the root of the problem and who have to live with the consequences. Empowering and giving authority to employees allows to have the shortest time between decision and implementation.
The goal in a boundaryless organization is to develop greater flexibility and responsiveness to change and to enable the free exchange of information and ideas. It is made up of selfmanaging and crossfunctional teams that are organized around core business processes. The teams include employees from different functional areas as well as customers and suppliers.
Boundaryless organizations are able to achieve greater integration and coordination. It shows in integration of resources and human capital. They are able to adapt to environmental and technological changes faster.
The biggest change has been from having direct control over resources required for performance toward dependence on others over whom there is no direct control. Under new structures with more dependence, managers are still responsible for company performance. For a manager who is used to a traditional hierarchical approach, it’s hard to adjust and transfer control over to emloyees. Peter Drucker, renowned ‘business thinker’, once noted that the problem with large company managers is that they are used to giving orders and not to working as a team.
Aftereall, companies have to decide what structure would benefit their business. Not all the companies would respond well to the boundaryless organization. For example, organizations that operate under a lot internal control, power and ranks, would not respond well to boundaryless organization structure.
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Ashkenas, R. (1999). Creating the boundaryless organization, Business Horizons, Volume 42, Issue 5, September–October 1999,
Ashkenas, R., Ulrich, D., Jick, T., & Kerr, S. (1995). The Boundaryless organization: Breaking the chains of organizational structure. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.