just procrastinating

Monday, March 01, 2004

Office Networking
Professor Bainbridge talks about the disruptive effects of downsizing and hits on something that I have been thinking about, since I will have to be finding a new job soon: personal networks at the office:
Restructurings can also disrupt internal information flows. The most obvious effect of the layoffs associated with a down-sizing restructuring is the loss of the departed workers’ expertise and knowledge, but their more subtle effect is to break up the informal mechanisms by which managers and workers bypass hierarchy. One party (or both) to an informal bypass may be laid off. Lost trust and enhanced risk aversion may result in a communication breakdown even if both parties remain with the firm. Once severed, these informal links are slow to heal. Informal relationships of the sort at issue here typically develop around social interactions such as company sporting events, outings, car pools, and break rooms. By one estimate, a strong internal organization can take three to seven years to evolve. In the low morale post-restructuring environment, the longer estimate seems perfectly plausible.
The best way to make your job easier to find other people who can do it for you. One of the frustrations of starting a new job is that you don't always know who the right person is to call when you are looking for information or if something goes wrong. Depending on the size of the organization it can take years to develop this type of knowledge network. One of the worst things about consulting is that by the time you finally figure all this out and become efficient, then it is usually time to move on to the next project.

When I was working at a big Insurance Company in Northbrook, I had a boss who had been around for 25 years and probably knew 75% of the 6000-person home office staff, as well as a bunch more in the field. He wasn't big on strategy so probably would never make the VP level, but he was a get things done kind of guy. If he would have left, you couldn't replace the type of institutional knowledge that he acquired over the years. It made his team more efficient because he always knew who to call for information, or knew someone who knew someone.

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