Monday, August 16, 2010

The hidden workplace

There's the organization chart - and then there's the way things really work. Some smart companies are bringing power structures out of hiding.

Anyone who has ever worked knows that the org chart, no matter how meticulously rendered, doesn't come close to describing the facts of office life. All those lines and boxes don't tell you, for example, that smokers tend to have the best information, since they bond with people from every level and department when they head outside for a puff. The org chart doesn't tell you that people go to Janice, a long-time middle manager, rather than their bosses to get projects through. It doesn't tell you that the Canadian and Japanese sales forces don't interact because the two points of contact can't stand each other.

In every company there is a parallel power structure that can be just as important as the one everyone spends stressful days trying to master. Jon Katzenbach, founding partner of New York City-based consulting firm Katzenbach Partners, and his colleague, principal Zia Khan, have spent the past several years trying to bring the shadows to light. In a study released exclusively to Fortune, "The Informal Organization," they argue that successful managers must understand this "constellation of collaborations, relationships, and networks," particularly in times of stress and transition. "We're not saying you can formalize the informal," says Katzenbach. "We're saying you can influence it more than you do." Click here to read the full article in Fortune Magazine.

No comments: