Of all the visual models that we use in our projects, organizational charts might be one of my least favorite. They can be tedious to elicit and build. Project teams don’t always see the value in them once you have created them. And in many organizations, it will become obsolete rather quickly as people and positions change. We call the org chart a bounding model and encourage its use on every project, and there are times when they are very useful. On a new project or a new client where you don’t know who the stakeholders are, taking the time to map out the people or roles into an org chart can really help you plan elicitation and project communications.
I’ve been reading All the President’s Men to my daughter, who has a morbid fascination with politics and government. While it’s a fascinating book, it’s written in a rather breathless, newspapery style that leaves you a little exhausted at the end. I knew that if I was going to be able to answer my daughter’s questions, I was going to have to do a little more work to analyze and understand what we had read. Being the geek that I am, I thought “Aha! This is the perfect time to use some visual models!”
Several possibilities came to mind. A process flow entitled “How to destroy a presidency in 12 easy steps?” Or maybe a decision tree? But an org chart was really the obvious choice. There were so many people involved that it’s hard to keep the cast of characters straight as you follow the slow unveiling of plots and intrigues. Of course, I decided to cram a little extra information into the org chart, so I included color-coding to show who was indicted, who was convicted, and who escaped the whole mess unscathed. The challenge was – should I color-code Richard Nixon? As the president, the normal legal processes and terminology don’t apply. He was charged with three articles of impeachment before he resigned, and was eventually pardoned. I was rather stunned, when I finished the chart, to see how many of his advisors and employees ended up spending time in jail. Another challenge was that, as in any kind of organization, sometimes the connecting lines are a little murky. For example, Donald Segretti was hired by Chapin, paid by Kalmbach, but generally considered to be a member of the Committee to Reelect the President (CRP), which was headed by John Mitchell, so I included him the CRP. There could probably be a lot of dotted lines added to this chart, but many of those relationships remain unknown, and it would really clutter the chart to add them, so I left them out. Below is the end result. Probably not a perfect picture of the Nixon administration, but a useful tool for understanding history. Now you know you want to go watch Redford and Hoffman in action…..