Measuring Influence Distribution in a Public Organization: A Test of the Control Graph Technique

By Edwards, J David | Public Administration Quarterly, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Measuring Influence Distribution in a Public Organization: A Test of the Control Graph Technique


Edwards, J David, Public Administration Quarterly


ABSTRACT

This article presents a statistical test of Tannenbaum's control graph technique, a tool designed to measure the distribution of influence within organizations. Data for the study were obtained through two surveys conducted approximately one year apart in a public agency. Analysis of survey results showed that the organization's influence distribution pattern was highly atypical when compared to almost all previously published control graph research. ANOVA and MANOVA were used to determine the degree of consensus among agency members regarding the atypical influence distribution pattern.

The analysis showed a high level of agreement within the agency regarding the relative influence of organizational actors. Differences in the perceived influence of actors were shown to be statistically significant. Influence ratings were shown not to be affected by respondents' length of service and only marginally by their organizational level. Thus, contrary to criticisms of the control graph technique, the author concludes that the tool provides a reasonably reliable means of measuring power distribution within organizations.

INTRODUCTION

Given a broad definition of the term, power differentials are a basic feature of organizational life.1 Power represents an organizational resource, which affects outcomes in all kinds of decisions ranging from who gets the most attractive office to the definition of organizational goals and mission. Power differentials also establish the bounds for interaction between individuals and sub-groups, serving to shape social relationships and thereby an organization's culture.

Despite its importance to organizational processes, however, who actually holds power in an organization may be difficult to discover. Modern managerial training includes a heavy dose of human relations approaches with their emphasis on methods of eliciting willing compliance and cooperation from employees and this may discourage overt applications of power as well as discussions of them. Additionally, the truly powerful often have little need to demonstrate their power. As long as organization members recognize and accept their dominance, compliance is more or less automatic. It may not even be necessary for those who call the shots to express their wishes openly since subordinates may act in anticipation of perceived preferences of power-holders based on past experience. Thus, displays of power may be unrecognizable as such to an observer--or even to some participants!--making life difficult for those who study power and its consequences in organizations.

Identifying how power is distributed in organizations is especially critical for those who hope to change them. A basic tenet of organization development, for example, holds that the change agent should enter the client system at or near the top in order to assure support and legitimacy for his or her efforts. However, the organization chart may be a poor indicator of who actually controls or influences what goes on in a particular organization. Nominal leaders may in reality be relatively powerless to direct and control the behavior of their formal subordinates. Time spent developing planned change programs with top management may be wasted if subordinates can effectively neuter initiatives from on high.

Numerous means of assessing organizational power structures have been suggested (Harrison, 1987:97-98) but the focus here is on a single observational method--the control graph technique (Tannenbaum, 1968). This article describes the influence distribution pattern in a public agency as defined by the control graph and uses analysis of variance to test the extent to which the pattern reflects the shared perceptions of the organization's members. The purpose is twofold. The major goal is to evaluate the reliability of the pattern in response to specific criticisms of the control graph technique. A secondary purpose lies in exploring the implications of the analysis for managing and changing public agencies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Measuring Influence Distribution in a Public Organization: A Test of the Control Graph Technique
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.