What is the Creative Culture (Adhocracy) in Franchising?

As the developed world shifted from the industrial age to the information age, a fourth foundational variety of organization emerged. It is an organizational form that is most responsive to the hyperturbulent, ever-accelerating conditions that increasingly typify the organizational world of the twenty-first century.

With a rapidly decreasing half-life of product and service advantages, a set of assumptions was developed that differed from those of the other three forms of organization. These assumptions were that innovative and pioneering initiatives lead to success.

Further, it is established in these companies that organizations are mainly in the business of developing new products and services and preparing for the future. Finally, it is the major task of management to foster entrepreneurship, creativity, and cutting edge activity.

For the creative culture, adaptation and innovativeness lead to new resources and profitability. The emphasis is placed on creating a vision of the future, organized anarchy, and disciplined imagination create high levels of unique forms of collaboration.

In the hallowed halls of business academia this type of organization is often called an adhocracy from the root, ad hoc. It implies something temporary, specialized, and dynamic. Leaders from varied background often serve on an ad hoc task force or committees that disband as soon as a specified task is completed.

Adhocracies within franchise companies are to a point similarly temporary. They have been characterized as “tents rather than palaces” in that they can reconfigure themselves rapidly when new opportunity (or alarming challenges); perhaps greater, unique prospects arise.

A major goal of an adhocracy is to foster adaptability, flexibility, and creativity. It is not uncommon for uncertainty, ambiguity, and information overload to occur.

The adhocracy franchise may frequently be found in businesses that are directly involved in or support such industries as aerospace, finance, software development, electronics, think tanks, developmental production, consulting, and the digital arts. An important challenge for these franchises is to produce innovative products and services and adapt quickly to new opportunities.

Unlike markets or hierarchies, adhocracies and those who lead in them typically operate without central controls or top-down authority systems. Instead, power flows from individual to individual or from task team to task team, depending on what problem is being addressed at the time.

Emphasis in Creative Culture is on individuality, risk taking, and anticipating the future. Frequently franchisees of a Creative Culture become involved with production, clients, research and development, and other matters that require out-of-the-box leadership and management. Often these are national in scale or even international.

For example, each different client demand in a consulting franchise such as Action Coach International is treated as an independent project, and a temporary organizational design is likely to be set up to accomplish a targeted task. When the project ends, the structure must be reorganized to meet new challenges.

Here is an example of how creative cultures operate. The story of the successful failure of the Apollo 13 space mission illustrates clearly how leadership changes regularly and often unpredictably, team membership is temporary, and no clear map can be drawn to identify the communication or control system.

During the flight, astronauts in the space capsule as well as support personnel on the ground were not organized in a stable way for very long. Different problems demanded different types of task teams to address them, leadership shifted often, and even the piloting of the spacecraft switched from one astronaut to another.

This was typical of the entire Manned Space Flight Center at NASA. Its formal structure changed seventeen times in the first eight years of its existence. No organizational chart was ever drawn because it would have been outdated before it could be printed. Jurisdictional lines, precedents, and policies were treated as temporary. Titles, job responsibilities, and even departmental alignments changed, sometimes weekly. The organization operated with an “adhocratic” design and reflected values typical of an adhocracy culture.

Well-known examples of other companies with adhocracy cultures are Google, IDEO—a design firm in Palo Alto—Genentech, Menlo Innovation, and most start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures that have any chance of success in the 21st century!

Sometimes adhocratic subunits exist in larger organizations that have a dominant culture of a different type. For example, an adhocracy subunit culture existing within a hierarchy (Control Culture) was described in a study conducted of the evolutionary changes that occurred in the Department of Mental Hygiene in the state government of New York (Quinn and Cameron, 1983).

In its first five years of existence, the department was organized as an adhocracy. Among the characteristics found in the analysis were the following:

  1. No organizational chart—it was impossible to draw an organizational chart because it changed frequently and rapidly.
  2. Temporary physical space—the director did not have an office and set up temporary bases of operations wherever he thought he was needed.
  3. Temporary roles—staff members were assigned and reassigned different responsibilities, depending on changing client problems.
  4. Creativity and innovation—employees were encouraged to formulate innovative solutions to problems and to generate new ways of providing services to clients.

Because this adhocracy was so inconsistent with the larger state government design (a Control Culture) and with an environment that demanded efficiency and accountability, it was pressured to shift to another type of culture (Collaborate Culture).

Similar shifts are typical in franchise organizations as they pass through various Stages of Growth. Stages of Growth are another compatibility factor and will be discussed in later blog postings.

In sum, the Create Culture or Adhocracy, is characterized by a dynamic, entrepreneurial, and creative workplace. People stick their necks out and take risks. Effective leadership is visionary, innovative, and risk oriented. The glue that holds the organization together is commitment to experimentation and innovation. The emphasis is on being at the leading edge of new knowledge, products, and services.

In these franchises, readiness for change and meeting new challenges are important. The organization’s long-term emphasis is on rapid growth and acquiring new and perhaps unique human resources (franchisees). Success means producing unique, perhaps singular in their application and original products and services.

Sources: Four Organizational Culture Types, Bruce Tharp and http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1887627/adhocracy

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