The Emergence and Evolution of the Multidimensional Organization
California Management Review, Vol. 51, No. 4, pp., 11-31, 2009
37 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2009 Last revised: 16 Mar 2010
Date Written: May 14, 2009
The M-form, in which a corporate parent manages relatively freestanding business units, was the most successful organizational design of the twentieth century. However, contemporary economic conditions call for designs that allow firms to exploit synergies across their business units and on this dimension the M-form is notoriously weak. We report on empirical research that highlights the fundamental tension between clear lines of authority and the exploitation of synergies that firms face as they move away from the M-form and implement shared service centers, corporate account management, and matrix organizations. However, we also found that a limited but substantial number of firms in our sample evolved organizational designs that signal a new way of resolving this tension. These firms are organized around multiple dimensions (e.g. region, product, and account) and are able to simultaneously hold different managers accountable for performance on these dimensions. We discuss the nature of this multidimensional organization form by contrasting it with the M-form and the matrix organization. The multidimensional organization is best understood as the next step in the evolution from a resource centric physical production model to a customer centric knowledge exploitation model. It is a way of organizing that seems particularly well adapted to stimulating the teamwork that is necessary to create economic value in complex markets on the basis of distributed knowledge and intangible resources.
Keywords: Corporate Strategy, Organization Design, M-form, Matrix Organization, Multidimensional Organization
JEL Classification: D21, F23, L21, L23, M10, N80
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation