Organizational network analysis (ONA) suggests that within local health departments (LHDs) one core group makes most of the decisions; the strongest communication ties likely prevail in clusters of de-centralized networks.
This comparative study identified common organizational characteristics in a range of LHDs. The authors used ONA to model the networks within 11 LHDs of varying sizes and structures.
ONA represents organizations as groups of networks; employees, tasks, and knowledge are points, or nodes within each network; the networks reveal patterns of interactions among the nodes. This study modeled the networks within LHDs using four characteristics: density, an indicator of communication flow; centralization, a measure of hierarchical versus egalitarian decision-making; complexity, indicating organizational cohesion; and, a clustering coefficent that measured communication flow between small groups.
- The 11 LHDs assigned similar tasks to their employees, who possessed a fairly standard knowledge base.
- LHDs with higher network density and complexity were more likely to provide several essential public health services.
This study used ONA to model patterns of interaction within 11 LHDs. Data for the study came from the 2005 National Profile of Local Health Departments. Identifying common organizational features could lead to standardized performance measures for LHDs.
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