This study on communication structure and processes was conducted among the staff of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in Canberra from July to August, 1986 and from November 1986 to February 1987. This coordinating type of organization was chosen for the study because it is different from most other organizations in the sense that it does not have an output that it can exclusively call its own. Rather, its output is the output of other organizations it works with, i.e., the results of its efforts to coordinate the work of other organizations. While it does not, by itself conduct agricultural research, it is able to produce research results which can be used by the agricultural sector of both Australia and its developing country partners. By commissioning Australian as well as developing country universities and other research institutions, it is able to harness the synergistic effects of workers from different cultures and to generate useful information. It is also thought that organizations of this type will assume more and more important roles in the future as a result of the need to rationalize the use of scarce resources as well as a realization of the ever-increasing complexity of our environment and society becomes widespread.
The other contribution this study hoped to make was to investigate the feasibility of adapting the concept and tools of economic input-output analysis to the analysis of communication transactions data. One of the advantages of using this approach is that different dimensions of communication relationships can be evaluated in a more quantitative way. The results have shown that it is indeed possible to gain a different perspective when data is viewed from this frame of reference.
Among other things, the study attempted to propose an alternative way of analyzing communication network data and to:
1. show patterns of communication for the whole organization
2. analyze communication roles, i.e., identify individuals and links which are important /central from the point of view of system functioning or goal attainment
3. show differing degrees of dependence/integration among the different communication networks
4. show potential flows of communication (potential communication networks) under given conditions
5. find out how satisfied the respondents are with respect to the existing communication structure
6. identify areas which may give rise to potential communication problems.
Non-participant observation, structured and unstructured interviews, and content analysis of written records were used to collect the needed data.
Due to heavy workload and other commitments, only 28 out of the 32 staff were interviewed during Period 1 while only 21 out of the 29 staff were interviwed during Period 2.
Among other things, the study found that:
a) there seems to be very little tendency for respondents to modify or distort upward-bound problem-related communication
b) potential communication messages are generally upward-bound, not necessarily directed to the superior or to others within the same work unit
c) perceived knowledge, experience, position of authority, and friendship ties determine to a large extent the potential communication transactions in the various networks within the organization
d) production- and maintenance-oriented communication transactions predominate at the organization-affiliate interface.
e) the respondents seem to be satisfied with the existing communication system The study found support for the hypothesis that communication transactions at the ACIAR-affiliate interface is predominantly of the production and maintenance communication types.