In an ACIS Conference proceedings, Dr. David Green discussed the impact of organizational structure on collaboration between team members on software project development teams. I will discuss several of the major constructs he identified.

According to Dr. Green, the 8 major constructs are:

  • Physical space
  • HR Practices
  • Leadership style
  • Contracts
  • Process & methodology
  • Culture
  • Organizational structure
  • Mutual understanding

The top three constructs identified organizational structure, culture and lack of mutual understanding.

He argues informal networks of benevolence trust become fragmented by formal organizational structure. Also, formal organizational structure hinders mutual understanding. Hierarchy, command and control culture generates conflict in priorities and political tension. He advocates for communication brokers/consultants who can allow communication as well as command and control directives to exist.

In the past several weeks, I observed individuals involved in software development projects, and tried to rank them on a single category - benevolence trust. I rated them on several categories - their benevolence trust, their level of mutual understanding (with immediate colleagues and in other teams) and the success in their projects on a scale of 1 - low to 7 - high.

Voila, my results:


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My conclusions: Mr. Green's findings are one way of looking at things. My rankings support some of his conclusions, for example, organizational structure does negatively influence informal networks, and supports the "us vs. them" context. However, that does not hugely affect software development success. My findings show that although understanding can be brought to a benevolence trust and understanding can be elevated, the end result stays the same - success.

Furthermore, I certainly do not advocate for consultant/communicators. It is the team member's job to effectively communicate. And the managers need to constantly look to the informal networks, and try to support the informal channels being formed, since information flows much faster, and mutual understanding gets improved.

Let me present a new idea: managers can look for ways to simplify the organizational structure, to help form the org structure which resembles the informal social network. This will facilitate trust, mutual understanding and software development success.