BOUNDARYLESS



The term "boundaryless" has come to describe the business organization of today and the future as well as its employees. A boundaryless organization is the opposite of a bureaucracy with numerous barriers and divisions. In contrast, the organization without boundaries offers interaction and networking among professionals inside and outside the organization. The organizational model is fluid and highly adaptive, much like an open system in biology. The form of the business is ever-changing. Professionals inside the organization form networks and links and emphasize collaboration on projects. Business relationships are informal and people come together when they share a common need or problem. Employees are grouped by competencies centered around technology, information, and expertise.

The boundaryless organization has developed primarily due to the widespread dissemination of information and the presence of information technology. It is also difficult to distinguish between internal and external practitioners and such distinctions offer little meaning in today's environment.

THE CHANGING ROLE OF EMPLOYEES

To be successful in the new boundaryless world of business requires a person to have strong team skills. It is important for employees to feel at ease with the free-form work structure and a situation that may border on chaos. The tremendous networking and linking that occurs changes the role of employees to that of a consultant. Employees no longer work in isolation but work as part of a team on broad, company-wide projects, like quality management, just-in-time methods, lean production, and supply chain management. Strategic alliances and collaborative arrangements, often between competitors and vendors, are another facet of the boundaryless organization.

Because technology plays a major role as a communication medium in the boundaryless organization, much work is done from a distance via e-mail, phone, and fax. Less work is done in traditional face-to-face settings. Virtual collaboration makes it easier to use the expertise of a broader range of individuals. With telecommuting, international employees are more easily made a part of all business processes. Employees often like the freedom that boundaryless work offers them, particularly with virtual teams and more flexible work plans, arrangements, and schedules.

Boundaries and organizational affiliations are also blurring as large organizations team up with small businesses and consultants, as well as with other informal networks of groups, professional organizations, and businesses. The emphasis is on expertise and not location or affiliation. Employees may be part of multiple networks and organizations in the new workplace. Because employees change roles and affiliations, the responsibility for training, education, and development now rests more with the employee and not specifically with the organization.

Research suggests that even in a boundaryless organization, some boundary-spanning activities must take place. These include creating and maintaining a common task and group climate to focus groups and teams on the tasks at hand and on overall strategies. As organizations restructure, these boundary-spanning activities change as well.

FURTHER READING:

Cross, Robert L., Amin Yan, and Reis Louis. "Boundary Activities in Boundaryless Organization: A Case of a Transformation to a Team-Based Structure." Human Relations. June 2000.

Taylor, Marilyn, and John Lansley. "Relating the Central and the Local: Options for Organizational Structure." Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Summer 2000.

"Which HRIS Technologies Best Support the Virtual Workplace?" HR Focus. February 2000.

Willmore, Joe. "Four HRD Scenarios of the Future." Training and Development. December 1999.



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