I’ll start this chapter with a couple of complexity stories to illustrate how the Org Graph builds Organizational Cognizance and helps you achieve concrete results.

Example 1: Who is doing what, with whom, when, and how does it all flow?

The first story involves a client of ours in the financial planning business. Somewhere around 80 percent of U.S. workers do all of their financial planning at work, and this client, who I’ll call Smith Planning, helps organizations and their employees with everything from standard employee benefits to life insurance to retirement planning to financial planning. Smith Planning has the following belief statement: Everyone deserves the opportunity to be led to financial freedom.

Smith is typically hired by a company, its “client,” but once that happens, it also has a raft of sub-entities beneath that client – the client’s employees, who Smith Planning works with individually. The company as a client has certain needs and requirements and each employee also has his or her own unique financial situation and a set of particular needs and goals. Smith offers the client and its employees four distinct service lines, and it has SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in each who serve that area within Smith but also serve both the client and the client’s employees. 

Are you counting Nodes and doing the Nodes squared minus the number of Nodes complexity math?

Think about the number of Nodes and relationships this business model creates, the complex Workflows, Systems, and Processes involved. The number of Positions grows quickly, and even the ones that might seem disparate are tightly connected, since financial planning has to work holistically, in a closely integrated manner, to serve clients effectively. Your level of benefits is linked to your retirement account, both of which affect the amount of life insurance you can afford, which impacts your personal investment strategy…

Needless to say, the old Org Chart was useless at capturing this complexity. Smith is a well-run business, but leaders had no clear way to represent its complicated functions and structure. We introduced the Organizational Cognizance Model and helped the organization to complete the Cracking Eggs and Flower Power exercises from the previous chapter, and to build an Org Graph.

Once the Org Graph was installed, the organization lit up. Everyone knew who was doing what and how he or she related to colleagues and Workflows across the company. They understood how their work affected others, how various functions were coordinated, the Purpose behind formerly murky Processes and Systems. The number of questions ICs had dwindled because the Org Graph itself answered many of them. It was as if people had been working by candlelight, and someone switched the lights on.

The Organizational Cognizance we achieved with Smith also led to better and more coordinated service for customers. In this case, Smith showed its Org Graph to clients to educate them on how they would be served and how the organization conducted this very complicated business.

For most businesses, the Org Graph is strictly internal, but Smith used it as a way to win business, as well as to help existing clients navigate its services.

Example 2: A project-based marketing company creating templates.

Another organization that we are working with also completed our Organizational Cognizance exercises and installed an Org Graph but with a very different approach that grew organically from its business. This company, which I’ll call College Marketing, handles marketing for universities, everything from websites and social media to ad campaigns and promotional pieces.

We built College Marketing’s Org Graph around its primary Workflow for a university client that wants the full menu of services. All of the Nodes and Edges involved in that Workflow – Jobs, Positions, Objectives, Meetings, Processes, etc. – form a template: here is how we serve a client who wants our full offerings, soup to nuts, front to back. When this kind of client hires the organization, College Marketing turns to an unpopulated Org Graph template that covers everything and then attaches People to the new project via Job and Position Edges.

For a la carte clients, or those who want a particular set of services, parts of the overall Org Graph template can be utilized, brought to the forefront, and others left dormant. With a few mouse clicks, we can say, okay, here is the Workflow for the soup course only – with all its attendant Jobs, Positions, Objectives, humans to do the work, etc. – if that’s what the client wants. For a client who wants three of eight courses, we can activate those parts of the overall Graph. We turn to the appropriate parts of an unpopulated template and then pull in Bob, Kim, and Alice, who are assigned the appropriate Positions. They instantly know what Objectives they’re AccountableFor, the Results they’re ResponsibleFor, the Meetings they’ll Attend, the Systems they’ll InterfaceWith, etc. to serve this client. They understand their Purpose, domain, and authority – and that their Positions can shift from client to client, or project to project on a fairly routine basis.

The usual setup time and throat-clearing that occurs before work on a project really begins is eliminated. Bob, Kim, and Alice can plunge right in, fully Cognizant, and they’re less likely to suffer missteps or confusion, since the roadmap to serve this particular client with this set of needs is crystal clear.


Because of the limitations of space and print, we are barely scratching the surface of how Organizational Cognizance and the Org Graph can benefit organizations. As I hope you see from the examples above, the Org Graph is as flexible and nimble as your business. It gets built according to the needs, priorities, and quirks of a particular organization. The overall principles and component parts are the same, but the Org Graphs for Smith Planning and University Marketing are quite different. Both organizations accelerated onboarding and employee ROI with their Org Graphs and created a new level of transparency, but as we’ve seen, they also use their Graphs in unique ways.

This is another benefit of a 3-D Org Graph updated in real time – it is tailored to your evolving organization on a daily – really, minute-by-minute – basis. The old Org Chart, by contrast, looks more or less the same all year and from business to business – a vague pyramid that doesn’t tell anyone much about the reality of how your organization works or how ICs are actually connected.

In previous chapters, we discussed how having an IC start a new Job with an Org Graph that visualizes exactly where she fits and how things function – every Meeting, System, Process, and Workflow she touches – creates clarity, engagement, and buy-in. We have talked about how it boosts performance and answers the questions that ICs are often afraid to ask. We have talked about the ways that the Org Graph accelerates onboarding, and at the end of Chapter 1, we did the math showing that, minimally, the Organizational Cognizance Model and Org Graph can produce a permanent 15 percent gain in employee productivity. That’s a dividend paid directly to your EBITDA – and it’s a conservative estimate.

These are the benefits for a single IC and those who work with him or her, as well as for the organization. Once every Job and Position is accurately represented in a 3-D Org Graph, however, the benefits multiply exponentially. Everyone’s level of awareness, knowledge, and connectedness reaches new heights. People understand their own Jobs and Positions with new clarity, but also the Jobs and Positions of everyone they work with or are linked to.

As the Org Graph fills out, Teams also understand other Teams, and Departments other Departments at a deeper level. Organizations that achieve Cognizance develop what I call self-integrating Teams. Everyone on the Team is Cognizant of how and where they fit. They are hyperaware of that domed-top table from our earlier illustration and the role their Positions play in making sure nothing slips through the cracks. They fully understand their domain and authority, which prevents the jockeying that occurs within and between teams – and almost always results from a lack of clarity.

I am not saying there will never be an ego that needs to be checked or an IC with a propensity for wandering out of his lane. I am saying that with an Org Graph in place and a functioning Organizational Cognizance Model installed, the self-integrated Team will usually take care of these issues itself because Accountability and connections are now clear. Bob and Kim, from our College Marketing example above, will quickly spot what’s slipping through the cracks and trace it back to Alice with the help of their updated Org Graph. With that Org Graph in hand – or rather, on screen – they’ll feel comfortable going over her Positions with her, pointing out a Process she’s skipping or Key Results she’s missing, in a way that they wouldn’t without that clear visualization of who is doing what.

In his acclaimed book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni argues that avoiding the Responsibility of calling out peers who are falling short is one of the primary problems Teams face. It’s a problem that largely disappears when true Accountability is built into an Org Graph.

I have used the word “Accountability” a lot, though I acknowledge that in some ways, it’s a tired term. What leaders really think when they utter this word is a useful acronym, DYFJ: Do Your Fricking Job. That’s the bottom-line, isn’t it? Well, it’s much easier to DYFJ if you are Cognizant of what that Job is. And it’s easier still when everyone on your Team also understands what it is, right down to every Position that is a FunctionOf  your Job, every Meeting you Attend, and Key Result you’re ResponsibleFor. If something slips through the cracks or someone oversteps his domain or authority, fellow Team members are now much more likely to reach over for a course correction because they know where the lines are.

As we saw in Chapter 2, research demonstrates that the move from hierarchical to more Team-centric models can improve performance, but the Deloitte survey I cited reveals that only 6 percent of respondents rate themselves as “very effective” at managing cross-functional Teams. The growth of Teams is a sign that organizational structures have evolved in the face of 21st-century technology and challenges. The classic Org Chart has not, and therein lies the troubling gap that led to the Org Graph.