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Configurable bureaucracy and the Making of the Modular Man

Hirst, A.; Humphreys, M.

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A. Hirst

M. Humphreys


The flexibility of people in modern societies rests upon their capacity to divide themselves into separate modules of thought and action, and deploy them in ways that fit their purposes. The practice of ‘informatizing’ work by converting tasks into software-based processes entails the modular design of work, because software has a modular form. We use the concept of modularity to analyse the implications of informatization in the empirical context of a ‘shared service centre’ providing professional services. We make three contributions. First, informatization enlarges the scope for organizational flexibility, because the organization can be treated as a configuration of modules which can be reshuffled to suit changing circumstances. Second, employees must attempt to deploy enhanced modular capabilities, by executing any given set of processes, in a flexible, unemotional and time-efficient fashion. Third, given the ability to informatize complex service work, and the existence of organizational templates which accommodate it, the modular design and management of other services may become more common.


Hirst, A., & Humphreys, M. (2015). Configurable bureaucracy and the Making of the Modular Man. Organization Studies, 36(11), 1531-1553.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 2, 2015
Publication Date Nov 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 2, 2014
Publicly Available Date Jul 15, 2014
Journal Organization Studies
Print ISSN 0170-8406
Electronic ISSN 1741-3044
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 11
Pages 1531-1553
Keywords Bureaucracy, Flexibility, Informatization, Modular man, Professional service work, Public sector reform, Role.
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (374 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Hirst, A. and Humphreys, M. (2015) 'Configurable bureaucracy and the making of the modular man.', Organization studies., 36 (11). pp. 1531-1553. © The Author(s) 2015. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

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