A parallel organization differs from a traditional, hierarchical organization in that it actively solicits employee input. It’s possible -- and sometimes advantageous -- to blend a bureaucratic structure with a parallel structure. For example, a subset of employees can act as a parallel structure to develop solutions to specific problems without changing the overall organizational structure.
A parallel organization encourages employee involvement and fosters the idea that everyone is a stakeholder in the business. Managers share information with employees and employees share their intimate knowledge of the business at the detail level to demystify processes and suggest efficiencies. Managers promise to listen and implement suggestions where feasible.
Teams in a parallel organization consist of members from different job functions. Each member provides a unique contribution and represents the interests and input from their departments. The result can be greater than the sum of its parts. At a higher level, a steering committee, composed of high-level managers, develops a vision for the organization and the implementation of attainable goals. It can also act as the link between a parallel organization and the formal organization.
The actual work of a parallel organization happens in forums where the teams address specific problems. A formal training process can help the team understand its role and provide the group with problem solving tools to help brainstorm ideas and build consensus.
- “Organization Development and Change”; Thomas G. Cummings and Christopher G. Worley; 2008
- “Organizational Dynamics” magazine; Affinity Groups: The Missing Link in Employee Involvement; Eileen M. Van Aken, Dominic J. Monetta and D. Scott Sink; Spring 1994
- “Organization Science” magazine; Flexibility Versus Efficiency? A Case Study Of Model Changeovers In The Toyota Production System; Paul S. Adler, Barbara Goldoftas and David I. Levine; January-February 1999
- process flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com