Organizational flexibility has recently received much attention from researchers, management consultants and practitioners. In general, the term 'flexibility' has a positive connotation: flexible organizations are the better ones. However, the meaning of flexibility as well as its relation to the functioning of an organization is still ambiguous. This article develops a systematic and multidimensional picture of flexibility on the basis of views taken from the systems theory of control. The general idea is that flexibility can be analysed as a characteristic of some dual and relative control relation between the organization and its environment, which fosters organizational independence. It is argued that flexibility is a function of the control capability of the management as well as the controllability of the organization. Flexibility is thus concerned with the promotion of the management's control capability or competence. The management's ability to allocate and use this capacity with success, however, is dependent upon organizational conditions that determine the controllability. The organization design task, therefore, involves the creation of appropriate organizational conditions to foster flexibility. This article clarifies the paradoxical nature of flexibility and the existence of different types of flexibility. Copyright

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Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

de Leeuw, A. C. J., & Volberda, H. (1996). On the concept of flexibility: A dual control perspective. Omega, 24(2), 121–139. doi:10.1016/0305-0483(95)00054-2