"Wirearchy is a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on:
- a focus on resultsenabled by interconnected people and technology"Jon Husband, 1999
An Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) reveals the wirearchy in an organization — the prescribed and emergent networks in an organization — the enterprise's social & task networks. We find that even a hierarchy is a network! Mathematicians classify a hierarchy as a special type of network called a tree — a network without cycles/loops. It is one of many overlapping organizational networks.
In the network map below we see two networks. The hierarchy, drawn with black arrows, shows who reports to whom. The work network, drawn with grey undirected links, shows who collaborates with whom — many within the hierarchy and many not. The work network shows one of the emergent organizational structures — no one explicitly designed it like they did with the prescribed hierarchy.
The nodes in the network map are colored by location of the office where the employee works (actual employee names are hidden, replaced by numbers). Similar organizational functions are grouped together by location — executive and administrative (Finance, HR, IT, etc.) functions are performed at the purple location (HQ).
Some may look at this map and ask why there are not more connections between the green, blue and red locations. Others may look at the map and see the preponderance of links within a location and conclude that management has accurately placed the employees that need to work together.
As outsiders, looking at a network diagram of someone else's organization, we can not judge what is right and what should be. A smart, external consultant with knowledge of many organizations, works with executives of the client organization, who have inside knowledge of how things work and could be, to decide what is the ultimate organizational shape and structure to meet management's goals. An ONA is to management like an x-ray/CAT scan is for doctors — it helps to reveal the invisible, but does not provide easy answers.
The organizational wiring — both the prescribed and emergent — is molded by the strategy, contexts, and history the organization is embedded in. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Apple is not structured like Mobil, yet they both succeed with different patterns of wirearchy appropriate for them and their business ecosystem.
For more on organizations, hierarchies and networks see: Adapting Old Structures to New Challenges