Thursday, March 29, 2007


Hierarchical organisations are becoming obsolete in the modern world. This hierarchical form of organisation was useful for providing order and control, but tended stifle creativity and spontaneity. In the modern world, this level of control is no longer acceptable, and the world is shaking off the bonds of hierarchy. Hierarchies are being replaced by networks. A strong network allows a group of people with diverse skills and talents to co-operate in a highly effectively and productive way.

The business world is rapidly transitioning from hierarchy to networks. General Motors once owned and controlled every aspect of car manufacturing. It was a very hierarchical organisation, controlled from the top. In contrast, Nike does not own a single factory or warehouse. All aspects of production from design to marketing and manufacturing are done by a network of contractors and subcontractors. Decision making is decentralised. The development of business networks has increased the efficiency of many business processes. A World Bank economist, Charles Goldfinger (great name for an economist) has documented the positive impact of business networks on the information economy.

Al Qa'ida, the organisation responsible for the destroying the World Trade Centre, is a very effective network (though we might not agree with its goals). The network is decentralised, so that it is not dependent one or two key individuals. If some leaders get put out of action, the network closes up and carries on. This is very important for a network operating in a hostile environment. It is ironic that Osama bin Laden seems to understand the power of networks better than the church.

Despite the trends, the church is still very strong on hierarchy and control. "Sadly, the more the surrounding culture relaxes, the more intent some Christian leadership seems to be on controlling the masses through application of authority" (The Prodigal Project).

To be effective in the modern world, the church will have to transition from hierarchy to a network model.


Charles Goldfinger said...


My name is Charles Goldfinger and I used to work for the World Vabk, although that was some time ago.
I wonder which article of mine you kindly refer in your blog, which I found on Google

Ron McK said...

I am sorry I did not put up the reference, but I have lost my copy of the article. I think it was something about the Intangible Economy and Statisticians. I came across it at my work, where I have done quite a lot of work on statistics about the Knowledge Economy.