Inside the black box of the corporate staff: Social networks and the implementation of corporate strategy



In multidivisional firms, the corporate staff is central to the implementation of corporate-level strategy, but empirical evidence on its function is limited. We examine one corporate staff through e-mail analysis. We find sharp cross-sectional differences in communication patterns: staff members have networks that are larger, more integrative, and richer in structural holes. However, much of this difference is attributed to sorting processes, rather than being caused by employment in the corporate staff per se. Further, once people receive the ‘corporate imprimatur,’ they retain aspects of it even when they move back to the line organization. These results imply that the literature's emphasis on structure as a means to achieve coordination undervalues a selection process in which individuals with broad networks match to coordination-focused jobs in the corporate staff. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.