Information Access and Flow LO11684
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 09:08:22 -0600

Replying to LO11659

Let me offer a couple working definitions to try to clarify some confusion
which I have encountered in this thread.

Organization: (1) a group of folks engaged in some common activity;
(2) the means by which a group of folks coordinate their activities.
(As a recovering English major, let me point out what seems to me the
critical difference -- #1 uses an indefinite article (a), while #2 uses a
definite article (the).) Let me use the word 'enterprise' for the first
definition for a few seconds here.

In my work life, and in my non-work life, I very seldom see an
'enterprise' with just one 'organization'.

Some examples might help clarify my meaning. In my men's choir, the
'enterprise' is about singing and there is a formal 'organization' with
director, assistant director, accompanist, section leaders, etc. There is
also another 'organization' for spreading widely and redundantly
information about the rehearsal schedule. The former rather resembles a
hierarchy, while the latter more nearly resembles a network. Thus, there
is not -the- organization for -the- enterprise. Rather we can talk about
'an organization' which serves a purpose for 'the enterprise'.

In my division at work, we have a formal organization with all the usual
trappings -- a vice president, some directors, even more managers, and
lots of 'managed'. Sure sounds like a hierarchy. But we also have
informal organizations -- people who share a common interest even though
they work in different areas, whether work-related or not; people who seem
to always know what's going on; people who prefers Macs to PCs; etc..
Sure sounds like a network, or even a series of networks layered on top of
one another. Sounds like redundancy.

And, of course, some of these networks go away (maybe a key person leaves)
and new ones takes their places in time (because the need satisfied by
that network has not disappeared even the the links were broken, and
eventually the network 'heals itself' although the new connections may be
much less robust and less efficient). I think this gets back to some
eariler comments about 'little hierarchies arising and disappearing over
time'. When you take some segment of a larger network and examine it out
of the larger context, it does indeed look very similar to a little

I suggest that when we talk about 'organization' we need to bear in mind
whether we mean 'organization(1)' or 'organization(2)'.

Now with that out of the way, let me pose this question: In the world of
hierarchy, the operating assumption seemed to be that the person at the
top was the most critical person; can we suppose that in the world of the
network, the person with the most connections may be most important? Or
more narrowly, the person who most often acts as the critical link on
critical chains?

And what might the implications of that be for the organization(1)?

Michael A
Michael Ayers Voice (612) 733-5690 FAX (612) 737-7718
IT Educ & Perf Svcs\3M Center 224-2NE-02\PO Box 33224\St Paul MN 55133-3224
"Sometimes the right question is, 'Are we asking the right question?'"
Ideas contained in this note represent the author's opinions and do not
intentionally represent the positions of anyone else in this galaxy.


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