Bauer Professor Explores Internal Communication Networks in NSF-Funded Research

Published on April 15, 2019
Kristin Cullen-Lester, assistant professor of management and leadership.

Ensuring critical knowledge held by mid-level managers reaches the C-suite is a perennial challenge for organizations. A three-year joint research project of Bauer College and the University of Georgia offers opportunities for organizations that want to fine-tune internal communication networks: Participating organizations will receive a tailored report, hour of consultation and debriefing.

Kristin Cullen-Lester, assistant professor of management and leadership at Bauer, is partnering with Bauer’s Gutierrez Energy Management Institute, the Center for Creative Leadership as well as the University of Georgia in order to examine how organizations engage mid-level management teams to advance their business strategy.

“Researchers have begun to recognize that it’s not just the CEO or the top team who are responsible for setting and achieving an organization’s strategy,” Cullen-Lester says. “Many individuals, including those in the middle levels of the organization, play a critical role in strategy development and execution. In fact, a firm’s strategic effectiveness depends on the networked patterns of communication and influence among people in both upper as well as middle levels of management.”

“Unfortunately, our early findings show that these networks often do not naturally form in optimal ways. For example, information does not flow easily up the hierarchy and top leaders may discount middle managers’ attempts to exert influence.” 

“Not surprisingly, organizational silos and subgroup priorities can derail the organization’s overall goals and objectives. This can lead to strategic leadership problems.”

The work has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant. NSF grants are considered the “gold standard” for funding support in academia because the grants are awarded based on the highest standards for both intellectual merit and broad societal impacts. Click here to find more information about participating in this study.

By Julie Bonnin