Notes on
Krackhardt and Hanson


Case 1a

Leers (the CEO) starts putting money into other divisions besides the design group, which upsets the design group and makes others nervous who have seen the design group as the flagship of the company. Needs to persuade employees to support the new direction. Decides to involve them in the planning process by creating a strategic task force with members from all divisions, and headed by a field guy (to signal commitment to that group). He appoints Tom Harris, whom everyone knows is a top performer. But the team fails to work, with everyone guarding their own turf.

The consultant, Krackhardt, mapped the company's trust and advice networks. Found Harris very central in the advice network, but peripheral in the trust network. So in the task force, it seemed that people didn't trust Harris to take their ideas seriously, or to look out for their interests. The goal was to find a strategy that would be in everyone's interest, but each individual did not have a special relationship with Harris, so didn't know if he could be relied upon to champion a strategy that would protect their interests.

So Leers named a second task force leader (Benson) to share responsibilities with Harris. Picked someone central in the trust network. Within 3 weeks there were changes in the group dynamics. They trusted Benson to act in the best interest of the entire group.


Case 1b

The CEO had appointed Calder as manager of the field design group, because he was the most respected technically. But, like Harris, he was marginal in the trust network. Leers knew that Calder was not exactly a diplomat, but he assumed that Calder had decent working relations with his team. And any way, Leers trusted Calder, so probably others would too. But this was not the case. Calder's view of the network was also revealing: he saw no trust links anywhere.

Again, the solution was to change the formal organization to mirror the informal organization. Calder was promoted to an elite "special situations team" reporting directly to the CEO. His job involved working with technically sophisticated clients on the hardest problems. He liked the job (and didn't like administration and managing people). To replace him, Fleming was promoted. He was central in the trust network and pretty influential in the advice network. The field group's performance improved significantly.


Case 2a

An east coast bank is having trouble with customer dissatisfaction with services. Problem traced to poor communication between branch managers and tellers. So managers were ordered to increase flow of communication in all directions. But further study showed that it was the type of communication not the amount. Branches with 2-way egalitarian communication between people of different levels were 70% more profitable than more hierarchical branches.

The bank sponsored seminars in the branches in which the problems revealed by the network maps were openly discussed.


Case 2b

One branch had effectively divided itself in two, each with its own culture and mode of operation. The main group was tellers, loan officers and administrative staff. The other group was tellers and administrators who worked during non-peak and saturday hours. The two groups rarely interacted and so were free to develop their own culture. Customers complained about the off-peak people, who were rude and indifferent. It turned out they felt isolated from the main branch. For one thing, there were excluded from staff meetings, which were scheduled in the morning, and they had no contact with the branch manager, who worked normal hours.

So the branch manager rescheduled the staff meetings, made it a policy for peak and off-peak personnel to trade shifts, and arranged off site training to always include both kinds of personnel.


Specific Problem Structures

Communication maps within organizations often show departments that have few links to other groups. Such departments tend to develop their own way of doing everything, their own interests, and may not necessarily work towards the same goals as the rest of the organization.

Sometimes you see the opposite problem. All the trust ties are to outsiders, and within the department, no one is trusting anyone else.

Sometimes there are no ties between departments that really should be working closely together. For example, in a large corporate law firm, a group of litigators was not talking to the firm's criminal lawyers.

Sometimes a region of a network looks like a bow tie: many players dependent on a single person for trust or advice, but not on each other. Such individuals in the center have tremendous power -- much more than their formal position might warrant, and more than their stake in the company. If such a person leaves, work can be severely disrupted and trust among certain groups dissolves. But if the person remains, organizational processes tend to slow down, and the individual is increasingly torn between conflicting demands.