SÉMINAIRE DE RECHERCHE
DECOUPLING STRUCTURE AND HIERARCHY:
FOSTERING NON-HIERARCHICAL CONTROL AND EMPLOYEE AUTONOMY THROUGH DYNAMIC FORMALIZED ROLES
Michael Y. Lee
Doctorant, Harvard Business School
Date: Jeudi 10 mai 2018, de 10h30 à 12h00
Lieu: Salle Louis-Laberge, 1er étage (section rouge), Édifice CSC, HEC Montréal
(La conférence sera donnée en anglais)
Hierarchical authority and role formalization are conventionally viewed as tightly coupled dimensions of organizational structure. As organizations move from more hierarchical to less hierarchical authority structures, they also tend to reduce formalization of work roles. These “organic” designs – which combine less hierarchical authority with low role formalization– enable high degrees of employee autonomy while reducing organizational control. This paper presents an inductive qualitative case study that calls into question the traditional coupling of hierarchical authority and role formalization. The organization I studied sought to increase employee autonomy by adopting a new management system that significantly reduced hierarchical authority. However, the organization also adopted a set of democratic and routinized formalizing practices that led to a substantial increase in role formalization. Existing theory would view such an organizational configuration as a logical contradiction, with the benefits of decentralization neutralized by the increase in formalization. Yet, I found that the newly formalized roles, which were also frequently revised as work contingencies arose, were used by employees in day-to-day work to support both organizational control and employee autonomy. This study illuminates dynamic formalized roles as a novel mechanism for expanding the well-known trade-off frontier between control and autonomy, and suggests that flatter hierarchies do not necessarily imply structurelessness. Rather, dynamic role structures in the context of authority decentralization can support non-hierarchical control while also reinforcing employee autonomy.
Michael Y. Lee is a Doctoral Candidate in Management at Harvard Business School and studies novel organizational designs and how formal structure can be leveraged to foster greater organizational effectiveness. His dissertation research explores the dynamics and consequences of radical approaches to less-hierarchical organizing, focusing on a novel organizational system called Holacracy that simultaneously decentralizes authority while employing a dynamic structuring process to enable coordination and control. His other research explores how teams can foster more productive and less-hierarchical dynamics. He uses ethnographic observation and interviews, field experiments, and survey methods to study these phenomena.
Michael has worked in a variety of organizational contexts and sectors. Most recently, he served as an engagement leader for the Parthenon Group, a global management consulting firm, where he advised corporate, private equity, and social sector clients. He has also spent time in the technology industry and in the nonprofit organizations where he helped clients measure and increase their social impact.
Michael earned his AB magna cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard University and an MBA from U.C. Berkeley where he was elected Net Impact President. He has trained in large group meeting facilitation and self-managed teaming as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs, and is an experienced student in Vipassana (Insight) meditation.
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