Communication (and Coordination?) in a Modern, Complex Organization â€” HBS Working Knowledge
Coordination, and the communication it implies, is central to the very existence of organizations. Despite their fundamental role in the purpose of organizations, scholars have little understanding of actual interaction patterns in modern, complex, multiunit firms. To open the proverbial “black box” and begin to reveal the internal wiring of the firm, this paper presents a detailed, descriptive analysis of the network of communications among members of a large, structurally, functionally, geographically, and strategically diverse firm. The full data set comprises more than 100 million electronic mail messages and over 60 million electronic calendar entries for a sample of more 30,000 employees over a three-month period in 2006. Key concepts include:
* Communication is heavily constrained by formal organizational structure: the vast majority of communication occurs within business unit and functional boundaries, not across them. This points to the importance of drawing the right organizational boundaries.
* Women, mid- to high-level executives, and members of the executive management, sales, and marketing functions are most likely to participate in cross-group communications.
* These individuals provide a bridge for distant groups in a company’s social structure.