Scholars have long debated the advantages and disadvantages of formalization. Although many researchers have suggested that formalization is likely to be disadvantageous in the dynamic environments currently faced by organizations and employees, formalization appears to be increasingly pervasive in modern organizations. Since scholars have suggested that the effects of formalization may depend on the way it is implemented, I examine work design as a key contingency for the successful implementation of formalization. Based on examination and integration of work design, organizational theory, and cognitive perspectives, I conclude that formalization is actually more advantageous and viable in the current work context. However, neither work design nor formalization individually is sufficient for organizations seeking to cope with current challenges. Rather, both interact and thus represent key levers for organizations seeking to thrive in the modern work context. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.