Research in organization design analyses how organizations of any kind work, and how they can work better, focusing on choices about structures, systems, and processes as well as emergent phenomena such as culture and networks that drive various organizational outcomes. Professional organization designers devise solutions to improve how organizations work, drawing on research, data and the insights distilled from their own experience with various organizational contexts.
Researchers in this field examine a wide spectrum of organizations, covering not only corporations but also teams, departments, government bureaus, NGO’s, communities (both online and offline) and entire business ecosystems. The elements of design that are analysed are also diverse, including not only formal, top-down driven mechanisms (such as reporting structures, information channels, hiring policies and incentives) but also the organic, bottom-up patterns that arise from informal interactions (such as cultural norms and networks).
To study organization design, researchers draw on multiple disciplines such as complex adaptive systems, economics, management, psychology, and sociology- as well as a range of methodologies in their work, such as qualitative research, field and lab experiments, econometrics, machine learning, computational and mathematical models. They also collaborate with professionals in the field to gather data to test theories and prototype new designs.
The unifying thread through this diversity is a common interest in improving our understanding of (and the ability to deploy) the mechanisms through which organizations solve and re-solve the fundamental problems of division of labor and integration of effort as they adapt to their environments including the institutions within it.
[1, noun] The set of mechanisms through which an organization solves fundamental problems of division of labor and integration of effort to adapt to its environment. These include the distribution of tasks, reporting structures, incentives, information flows, hiring practices, informal networks, and culture. Some of these mechanisms are mandated based on authority, others emerge through interactions among members. [2, verb] the process of choosing mechanisms through which organizations divide labor and integrate effort to adapt to their environments.