Thinking Outside the Traditional Org Chart

Bauer Research Looks at Social Structure to Improve Organizations Effectiveness

Published on November 19, 2019

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In organizations, the traditional way of seeing how things work, is through an organizational chart, showing one-to-one reporting.

According to research from Assistant Professor of Management & Leadership Kristin Cullen-Lester, traditional organizational charts don’t show the whole picture.

“Looking at an expanded organizational chart, you can identify others who wouldn’t be apparent in traditional charts,” Cullen-Lester said. “You can use the expanded chart to find outliers and utilize their skills.”

Her study, which gives surveys to organizations, asking them if they know certain people in the workplace, and how they interact, also helps show the influencers and those who are really getting things done, illustrating the network methods in the field.

“If you look at the traditional way of leadership, it is one person, but I want to understand it as a social influence process,” she added. “Relationships between group boundaries, taking it and expanding it beyond just your job position allows us to shift from person to social system, developing patterns in the organization.”

This field of study has earned Cullen-Lester a National Science Foundation grant, looking into how the energy industry can benefit from this, along with Bauer’s Gutierrez Energy Management Institute.

Cullen-Lester presented her findings during the Digital Research Commons Research Cluster event, which hosts University of Houston professors each week on different topics.