Information Flow & Hierarchies LO11687

Scott Simmerman (
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 13:10:25 -0500

Ben Compton says, in LO11655,

>At the same time I don't see why a hierarchical structure should dictate
>how information flows through an organization. The hierarchy brings a
>sense of order to the organization.

My experiences say that some hierarchy is a necessity (and we spent a lot
of time discussing some of these issues before, I believe). There is a
need for some structure to guide the direction of the organization and as
a key component in the motivational aspects of the process (the whole
thing about goals, expectations, feedback and reinforcement).

And as Ben added,

>But information can flow in any
>direction, from any node to any node, without the permission of those in
>the hierarchy. In fact each new piece of information introduced into an
>organization may take an completely different route than all other pieces
>of information. Information flow is really controled by how those who
>intitially receive information interpret it, and decide who else should
>see it.

We've added a new aspect to the cartoons we use, one that seems to
resonate well with a variety of audiences. The theme is The Oklahoma Land
Rush, and we depict the organization as a bunch of departments (wagons
with Square Wheels) all waiting at the line for the signal to start.
Then, with leaders sitting ON the round wheels, the pushers all push as
hard as they can in the grab for distant lands. The faster we go, the
more / better we'll get.

As a result, there is massive, emotional effort with little information
sharing BETWEEN the wagons. And while it can be a successful and fun
journey for some of the faster wagons, the average and below average ones
don't get much of the "good stuff."

In our Learning Organization model(s), it is this informal and formal
information network that is one of the major keys to learning, methinks.
It is the self-assessment and reflection, it is the Action Learning, it is
the objectivity and continuous continuous improvement that will help
"Oklahoma" become a better place for its citizens.

It's obvious that information is the key -- that best practices (the round
wheels) already exist (in the wagons). We need to get the leaders to stop
pulling and to step back. And we need to let the pushers play with the
wheels a bit to identify and share ideas.

Since different organizational cultures exist everywhere, IS there a
simple model for this communications and inforation movement process that
will work for all the organizations?

Seems it has a lot to do with organizational leadership styles as well as
systems. Do I sense the wheel going round and round?

And what can be learn (and share) about some of the more successful

For the FUN of It!

Scott J. Simmerman
Performance Management Company
3 Old Oak Drive
Taylors, SC 29687-6624 (USA) (new name, same address!)


Scott Simmerman <>

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