Words-worth

Adhocracy. It's a fashionable concept of business organisation.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

'Adhocracy' is a fashionable concept of business organisation. It means a temporary structure devised to deal with a specific problem – a 'task force' is one kind of adhocracy. The word was invented by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock. Toffler saw it as part of 'a new, free-form world of kinetic organisations' that would 'ultimately supplant bureaucracy', something nobody seems to have told Gordon Brown. Ad hoc, a Latin tag meaning 'to this', arrived in Britain in the 17th century. Since then, many have adapted it. In the 1930s we had 'ad-hocness', 'ad-hockery' and, later, 'ad-hocism'. Toffler's usage had more lasting impact. In 1990, Robert H Waterman made it the title of a book. He defined it as 'any organisational form that challenges the bureaucracy in order to embrace the new'. Its latest appearance is in Cory Doctorow's science-fiction novel Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom, where Disney World is run as an adhocracy. Yet it would be wrong to call it a Mickey Mouse idea.

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