I attended the inaugural Olin Lecture at Northwestern by the new Olin Professor of Learning in Organizations, Jim Spillane. (Press release about Spillane's receiving the professorship.) The full title of the talk was "School Reform American Style: The (Missed) Management of Instruction." The focus of his talk was K-12 education and the design of the organization that provides education. I heard some interesting things about organizational design that extends beyond schoolrooms.
What interests Spillane is the idea of distributed leadership and how organizations can be effectively led by a wider group of people than is traditionally thought. In schools, the leader is not just the principal but the people inside and outside the school to whom people go for advice and direction and the like. I see these effects everywhere. It is not only the titular leader that drives the organization, but also those who have influence and vision throughout.
An interesting piece of his research showed a social network analysis of advice networks within individual schools. There has been evidence that different subjects at school (mathematics, science, language arts) are handled differently by everyone involved. Spillane showed separate advice network for language arts and for mathematics: the language arts network spanned many more people than did the mathematics networks. And he said they've seen the same pattern in a variety of schools. He also cautioned that one is not necessarily better than the other, but that this view of the interaction patterns shows that approaches to improving instruction in those areas has to be handled differently.