Information Flow & Hierarchies LO11713
Tue, 7 Jan 1997 17:46:31 -0500

Replying to LO11687 --

There are problems with information flow in hierarchies. It's slow. The
hierarchical movement of information, up, up, across, down, down, is
perhaps the slowest cycle in any organizations.

But, yes, you need hierarchies. And yes, hierarchies add value of their
own: top management perspective, wisdom, experience, and when necessary

This is one of the richer dilemmas of managing knowledge, and I write
about it at some length in my book Intellectual Capital, which Currency
Doubleday will be publishing at the end of March.

As Scott Simmerman implied, networks--both social and technological--are
an important way to resolve the dilemma. They allow every node to connect
to every other node, and they allow top management to drop in or be pulled
into the discussion. He asks:

>IS there a simple model for this communications and inforation movement
>process that
>will work for all the organizations?

I don't think so, but there are general principles, among the foremost of
which are: First, You can't empower someone to make decisions unless you
also make sure that he or she also has instant access to the information
on which decisions should be based.Second, you want your smartest people
out in the field, working directly with customers, especially nowadays
when more and more of our relationships with customers are not merely
transactional, salesman-taking-an-order relationships, but instead involve
customization. Customization is an almost inherent characteristic of
knowledge work. Third, you want to design a network--social and
technical--that allows the expertise of those people in the field to be
available throughout the organization. Fourth: people in the hierarchy can
and should be part of the conversation; that doesn/t, however, mean that
they have to be gatekeepers and bottlenecks. There's a mindset change
involved here, obviously, and not an easy one.

Tom Stewart


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