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Disseminator: Role & Definition

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  • 0:05 Being 'In the Know'
  • 0:40 Managerial Roles
  • 1:43 Disseminator Role
  • 3:29 Informational Flow in…
  • 7:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Wiley-Cordone
To create an efficient environment, a skilled manager distributes information throughout the organization and, particularly, to his or her employees. Learn more about how information flows in an organization through the disseminator managerial role.

Being 'In the Know'

Have you ever worked with people who always seem to be 'in the know?' It's almost as if they have a crystal ball or are mind-readers! These are the people who take cover before anyone else knows a storm is brewing, or ride the next wave of innovation before others even realize the tide has changed! Sharing this information with supervisees who wouldn't otherwise have access to such details defines the disseminator managerial role. Let's pull back the curtain on this seemingly magical skill to see how the flow of information through an organization makes this possible.

Managerial Roles

Disseminator is one of ten managerial roles identified by organizational researcher Henry Mintzberg based on observational research of CEOs, middle managers, and supervisors. It is categorized as one of three informational managerial roles, along with monitor and spokesperson, because it's primarily related to processing details, facts, and data. The other two umbrella categories are the interpersonal managerial role and the decisional managerial role, which deal with the manager's professional relationships and the process of making and implementing decisions.

According to Mintzberg, managers slip in and out of these roles on a daily basis, sometimes spending as little as ten minutes in each role! By understanding the nuances of these ten different roles, you can begin to identify when you are called on to perform a particular role in your own work. Once you are paying attention, you can begin to develop performance-improving skills.

Disseminator Role

Before managers can disseminate information, it must first be gathered from inside as well as from outside the organization. This function is called the monitor managerial role. Let's see how the monitor and disseminator role work for Victor, who has just taken over a successful nursery from his retiring aunt. In the monitor managerial role, Victor will assess many factors that may influence his business, such as competitors opening nearby or going out of business, wholesale price of plants, the economy, worker wages, new regulations, and more.

As he reads We Love Flowers magazine, the premier florists' trade magazine, he reads a blurb about homeowners looking for help in re-landscaping their lawns with drought-resistant native plants. Victor instantly sees how this touches on many trending issues such as the locally-grown food movement, increasing awareness of global climate change, fears about the decline of bee populations, frequent local water bans, increasing water taxes, concerns about genetic engineering, and a growing demand for heirloom plants.

He meets with his employees and puts on his disseminator managerial 'hat' to summarize and interpret the additional data he's collected. He wants to make sure everyone understands his decision to shift the nursery's focus. Some of the employees' eyes glaze over, but Alanzo is alert. He begins to talk casually with his existing clients about the advantages of native plants in their landscaping and decides on his own to learn more about native plants. Can you guess who Victor will think of first to take charge once he shifts the company's market?

Informational Flow in Organizations

The disseminator role operates somewhat differently in larger organizations with more layers of management. It depends on the needs and levels of management of the person receiving the information. Information flow in healthy, well-functioning organizations has a predictable pattern. This predictability allows the disseminator to access the appropriate and accurate information necessary to do his or her job. Sometimes, people assume that information comes from the top and trickles down through management layers until it reaches the employees but in reality, information flow operates in multiple directions, more like the circulatory system than like a waterfall.

You can see here information flow in a typical organization with three levels of management: top management, middle management, and supervisors. Note that the disseminator role involves sharing information down and across the organization, not up the hierarchy; this is simply considered reporting.

Top management is focused on long-range strategic planning and market positioning. They need outside information (the monitor managerial role) and broad internal summaries of the overall condition of the organization from all departments below them. They plan the future growth and direction of the organization and share this directly with middle managers below them (the disseminator role) or broadcast information to the entire company (the figurehead role).

Middle managers deal with goal setting and department-level decision making. They need summarized weekly or monthly information horizontally across functional lines. Functional lines are, for example, accounting, human resources, manufacturing or services, research and development, and marketing. They also need information from above to know what the strategy is and from below to know about progress and changing conditions.

Supervisors directly manage the workers and take responsibility for the day-to-day operations. They may attend a meeting where the CEO talks about the corporate vision, but they need specific tactics for achieving the vision from the managers above them. They need daily information from the employees below them to report changing conditions up the hierarchy.

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