Tools for inventing organizations: Toward a handbook of organizational processes

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Management Science, Volume 45, Issue 3, Number 3, p.425–443 (1999)


Coordination, Handbook, Process


This paper describes a novel theoretical and empirical approach to tasks such as business process redesign and knowledge management. The project involves collecting examples of how different organizations perform similar processes, and organizing these examples in an on-line "process handbook." The handbook is intended to help people: (1) redesign existing organizational processes, (2) invent new organizational processes (especially ones that take advantage of information technology), and (3) share ideas about organizational practices.
A key element of the work is an approach to analyzing processes at various levels of abstraction, thus capturing both the details of specific processes as well as the "deep structure" of their similarities. This approach uses ideas from computer science about inheritance and from coordination theory about managing dependencies. A primary advantage of the approach is that it allows people to explicitly represent the similarities (and differences) among related processes and to easily find or generate sensible alternatives for how a given process could be performed. In addition to describing this new approach, the work reported here demonstrates the basic technical feasibility of these ideas and gives one example of their use in a field study.


Reprinted in Malone, T. W., Crowston, K. & Herman, G. (Eds.) Organizing Business Knowledge: The MIT Process Handbook. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
Reprinted in Malone, T. W., Laubacher, R. & Scott Morton, M. S. (Eds.). Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.


It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. Download adobe Acrobat or click here to download the PDF file.

Click here to download the PDF file.