Research Papers: Paul S. Adler

Collaboration as an Organization Design for Shared Purpose

By Paul S. Adler, Charles Heckscher

Toward Permeable Boundaries of Organizations? Research in the Sociology of Organizations

2018

“Shared purpose,” understood as a widely shared commitment to the organization’s fundamental raison d’eˆtre, can be a powerful driver of organizational performance by providing both motivation and direction for members’ joint problem-solving efforts. So far, however, we understand little about the organization design that can support shared purpose in the context of large, complex business enterprises. Building on the work of Selznick and Weber, we argue that such contexts require a new organizational form, one that we call collaborative. The collaborative organizational form is grounded in Weber’s value-rational type of social action, but overcomes the scale limitations of the collegial form of organization that is conventionally associated with value-rational action. We identify four organizational principles that characterize this collaborative form and a range of managerial policies that can implement those principles.



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