Over the years I have been asked repeatedly about how telework can affect the structure of organizations or even allow new organizational forms. Given the widening turmoil in the global economy, together with the rapid expansion of information technology even in developing countries, it is worthwhile to examine some alternative organization forms. Specifically, evanescent organizations and their future, the focus of this essay. (If you are interested in some of my earlier thoughts the topic is covered in a few pages in Chapter 11 of my book Managing Telework.)
Evanescent organizations (EOs) comprise a set of interconnected organizational resources and components that collectively operate as a coherent functional whole. The interconnections, in my definition, mostly are telecommunications links of various sorts. Think of a “normal” organization in which the key elements are scattered around the countryside, or the globe, instead of in some central location. Furthermore, the organizations are problem- or product-specific; once the problem is solved, or the desired product is produced, the organization breaks up, perhaps to merge into an earlier, more traditional form or to reassemble itself with different components in order to address a new challenge. It’s the ad hoc nature of the organization that is its central feature. By their nature, EOs tend to be small and flexible, such as “tiger teams” that are formed even in large organizations to respond to a disaster or to some passing market opportunity. But EOs can also be large and far-flung themselves, like a campaign or political action committee in the recent US presidential campaigns [the use of EOs by the Democrats was decisive in the outcome]. But one thing is certain: modern information technology provides a much broader spectrum of opportunities for EOs than was possible a mere decade ago.
So, how are EOs likely to evolve in the 21st century?