Establishing ties and communication across silos is a goal of many of my customers. Unfortunately, most companies have information flowing up and command flowing down with only executives coordinating across departments. Communication (and Coordination?) in a Modern, Complex Organization, a new HBS working paper by Adam M. Kleinbaum, Toby E. Stuart, and Michael L. Tushman combs through millions of emails, calendar entries and teleconferences in a large enterprise to reveal some patterns of working across organizational, spatial and geographic boundaries:
- 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.
At the Enterprise 2.0 Open sessions a frequent question was if there were any gender differences to be considered for implementation and adoption. This research indicates that women are more apt to bridge.
Some of our better champions are women that work across these boundaries. And even better, its our job to help them succeed and get promoted.