Modern Organization is a classic text of organization development that addresses the complications that occur in power structures within which workers with specialized skills are managed by superiors without those skills. Thompson is interested in exploring and righting the creative tensions between knowledge and power, demonstrating that within hierarchical structures, the wielders of power often lack not only the technical know-how of their employees but charisma and other attributes that would win the loyalty and confidence of those employees.
Thompson coins the phrase “bureaupathic” behavior to describe the rise in a perceived need for regulations and rituals that result from the insecurity in these structures. This behavior only confounds working life and efficiency. Technical specialization is rapidly advancing, while cultural definitions of authority are not. Authority must be redefined in order to make allowances for its limitations. What once made a leader, namely charisma, may no longer suffice.