Knowledge Networks versus Organization Structures

By Larry Grey • July 25, 2005

This topic was brought up by Bob Stambaugh in a very thought provoking presentation to the Northern California PeopleSoft RUG called “The new 21st century business environment”.

Bob talked discussed what decision networks are. They are the informal way you get things done in a company. In other words, who does a person go to when they need help. Bob has done several projects where he had employees fill out questionairres to determine who were the control points of information. Who did people go to when they needed to understand a certain policy? Who did they go to when they needed to get information about an aspect of their business? ect. He posed that this network does a much better job of describing who has power in an organization than an org chart. In fact, he postulated that one could determine who was dead wood in a reduction in force by determining who wasn’t part of the network (and one could also determine who was supporting the top producers by looking at it as well).

I found this extremely interesting (being the former product manager of tree manager for 9 years). Obviously, this is a much different way ot looking at things than I was used to (and also much different than the way ERP vendors build their products).

However, I also realize that the informal network may determine how things get done, but they do not represent who is accountable for things. In a day where investors and the government want to make individuals responsible for the controls and performance of a company, there is still a very important role for the org chart (as outlined in the following Blog entry). In fact, accountability is a very important area that is also missing from ERP vendors (which is an opportunity that Doctor Richard Connelly and I have discussed at length for many hours).

So, in the end, both structures need to play an increasingly important role in business applications. They need to better reflect not just how to capture transactions and secure access to the application, but they need to help organizaitons do the following:

  • Assign, delegate, and manage responsibility of roles and actions.
  • Help people get things done by helping guide users to the best individual in the network to get things done (and imagine using the network as a means managing the careers of individuals by identifying opportunities for training and networking).

Definitely food for thought.

Labels: Tree_Manager

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