Cases and Tools

The key area of cases & tools includes current and historical examples of organizational designs that may serve as inspiration (or warning) for designers.


Brian J. Roberston
Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World
Henry Holt & Company, 2015

The future of organisations may depend on the rise of distributed forms of management and leadership. Holacracy is a difficult concept to understand, but its founder Brian Robertson breaks it down simply and thoroughly. The organisation looks like a nest of circles, not a pyramid – but holacracy does not mean the abandonment of corporate hierarchy. 

Frederic Laloux
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide for Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
Nelson Parker, 2014

Highly influential work in which Laloux describes a diverse group of organisations that work according to evolutionary (or ‘teal’) principles: self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Both philosophical in nature as well as highly practical, including many great examples of the practices used by these organisations for organisation design aspects such as organisational structure, job descriptions, performance management and decision making.

Ricardo Semler
Maverick!: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace
Warner Books, 1993

The original account of how Ricardo Semler took over his father’s company and got rid of all traditional forms of management. Most of what he describes is still revolutionary today, as witnessed by his continued speaking engagements.

Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
The Starfish and the spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
Penguin, 2006

What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women s rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths? How could winning a Supreme Court case be the biggest mistake MGM could have made? After five years of research, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom argue that organisations fall into two categories: traditional spiders, which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary starfish, which rely on the power of peer relationships.

Deone Zell
Changing by Design: Organizational Innovation at Hewlett-Packards
Cornell University, 1997

How do organisations achieve change? In the first analytical book about Hewlett-Packard, Deone Zell provides an ethnographic study of corporate redesign, documenting Hewlett-Packard’s radical reorganisation of both a manufacturing and a research division. Documenting the change process as it unfolds, the author is able to demonstrate how the inclusion of employees in every step of redesign can inspire the knowledge and commitment to transform an organisation in a competitive and fast-paced business environment.


P. Puranam, O. Alexy & M. Reitzig (2014), ‘What’s “New” About New Forms of Organizing?’, Academy of Management Review, 39, 2, 162-180.

Very sensible analysis of exemplars of new organisational designs such as Oticon and Wikipedia. The article provides a useful framework for looking at new forms of organising.

P. Puranam, D. Døjbak Håkonsson (2015), ‘Valve’s Way’, Journal of Organization Design, 4, 2, 2-4.

Valve Corporation (Valve) is a global leader in the video game software industry. It is a rare example of a firm that appears to operate without any formal hierarchy in its organisation. What can we learn about the viability of authority hierarchies from Valve’s way of organising? This article explores Valve and considers the impact of new forms of organising and the role of self-organising teams in contributing to better organisational outcomes and critical emerging debates in the field of organisation design.

R. L. M., Dunbar & W. H. Starbuck (2006), ‘Learning to Design Organizations and Learning from Designing Them’, Organization Science, 17, 2, 171–178.

Overview of different perspectives on organisation design. This article is useful for putting your reading of different authors and sources into perspective.

S. Denning, J. Goldstein & M. Pacanowsky (2015), ‘The Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy 2015 Report’, ScrumAlliance

This is a report based on 11 site visits to organisations that have introduced new management practices, such as Microsoft and Ericsson. These new management practices are mostly in the area of IT development (Agile) but the report discusses the broader principles that underlie this ‘management makeover’, which is characterised by a move away from hierarchy and toward more self-management.

P. Gilbert, N. Raulet Crozet & A.C. Teglborg (2013), ‘Work Organisation and Innovation: Case study: FAVI, France’, Eurofound.

FAVI is an SME based in Hallencourt in the Picardy region of France. It is a pressure die-casting company specialising in copper alloys that currently employs 40o people. The company was featured in Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organizations’ because it has implemented a far-reaching form of self-management, centered around a number of ‘mini-factories’ dedicated to particular clients. This case study contains a detailed descriptions of the organisational philosophy of FAVI.



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