Originally the word organisation tended to refer to what is now classified as the FORMAL organisation. This is the aspect that is visible through organisation charts, through formal job descriptions and work protocols.

However, this has subsequently been broadened to add the concept of the INFORMAL organisation, which is tacit rather than explicit, invisible rather than visible. After the Second World War, there was a development in Europe of “systems thinking”, with a particularly strong role being played by early sociologists at the Tavistock Institute in London, who identified from field studies that the informal organisation was often of much greater significance for the workforce than the formal structure.

The development of flatter corporate structures in the late 20th Century was then followed by a growth in outsourcing, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, as well as the growth of “virtual” organisations with only a tiny core operation and operating through a constellation of partnerships. All of these three trends have tended to challenge the importance of the organisation as an apparently independent unit; the organisation rarely exists in isolation.