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How To Discover Communication Knots (And To Untie Them)

More than ever, communication, collaboration, information sharing and decision making are key business drivers. If you could take a moment to learn how your organization really works across formal and informal relationships, and pick the tools you need to make it perform better, would you?

That is what CEO Trond Voll of Mobit, a distributor of IT and mobile solutions for the business market, decided to do.

“As a leader of 800 employees across the country, I need a way to better understand my network and keep track of what’s important to each employee”, Voll says.

 

The challenge: When the chain-of-command doesn’t tell you what you need

With 150 retail points across the country, Mobit’s central value proposition had been its local knowledge and ability to make customers’ digital lives hassle-free. As the company grew and became more distributed, however, so did the expertise that had given them the edge over larger competitors.

For Trond Voll, traditional chain-of-command leadership theory came up short: As Mobit grew, it had become increasingly difficult to understand the organization actually worked.

How well do his people authentically communicate? How effectively do they collaborate, share information and make decisions? And how well do they do these things if faced with adversity or stress? If Mobit could move its organization up just a few notches on these values, what impact would that have on business?

Trond Voll’s wish list was ambitious:

– Increase connectivity between experts and managers.

– Onboard new employees after the merger, fast.

– Improve collaboration with key partners and customers.

– Gain insights on how the dealer chain works to utilize the potential better.

These are exactly the things JOIN21’s tools let you see, explains JOIN21 Co-Founder Jan Taug.

“Network analysis helps you do a body scan of your business and gives you a crystal clear view on how you are stacking up on these values. It lets you use that knowledge to drill down and see what each and every person in the network is contributing. And then it provides really simple tools and measures to let you push those values up”, Taug says.

“JOIN21 has the perfect technology for that, and it is customized to your needs. It gives you a map. The map shows your silos, bottlenecks and outliers. Your experts and go-to people. And it will probably surprise you.”

 

The solution: Lifting the veil on the network

With its Baseline tool, JOIN21 helped Mobit perform organizational network analysis. Data points were gathered from a bespoke company-wide survey, as well as from a series of workshops. The data was visualized in a network map.

This is what Mobit looks like as a network:


Here is a quick explainer: Each dot represents an employee. The arrows between dots show whom each employee consults or sends information to, the line’s thickness representing the frequency. The larger the dot, the larger the volume of requests from other people.

These are some of the things they discovered in the map:


Figure 2. Some central people drive communication.


Figure 3. (a) Key integrators make sure their organization or department is connected to the organization. (b) Organizational silos that could benefit from setting knowledge in motion. 

– Some individuals are so central in Mobit’s organization that they risk being bottlenecks, slowing the flow of communication – and innovation. Communication flow could probably be improved if more people communicate directly rather than relying on these pressured people.

– Some groups of people communicate little with the rest of the network. To stay connected, these silos are completely dependent on a few crucial individuals who serve as connectors, also called integrators and gatekeepers. The expertise in silos is utilized better by integrating the whole group into the network.

“It certainly looks nothing like our formal chain of command” says CEO Trond Voll. He was surprised at what was uncovered:

“JOIN21’s network map visualized exactly where Mobit’s problems lay and how to increase efficiency and the flow of knowledge across the organization”, Voll says.

The best about this: Once you see the problem, you can implement solutions.

 

The solution: Get some tools to work smarter

After the insights were explained at a company-wide workshop, Mobit and JOIN21 implemented a ‘Way of Work’ program to boost interaction between people, managers, dealers and departments across the regular chains of command. Some of the things they did:

– Implemented a collaboration platform (Workplace) to improve knowledge flow and allow employees and leaders to connect more, work smarter and perform better.

– Charged people with high centrality (formal and informal leaders) with leading the program.

– Created smaller ‘expert communities’ in Workplace based on the analysis, to boost domain knowledge across the retail chain.

– Set up a designated management community in Workplace to increase value creation in key areas.

 

The results: Increased engagement, information flow and productivity.

Looking back, Mobit CEO Trond Voll says the process led to some very real benefits:

“As a result of these insights, the merger was smooth. We gained a tremendous understanding of how communication develops in our network, and what network functionality means in real life”, Voll says, highlighting major effects:

– Increased engagement, knowledge flow and collaboration across dealerships

– More customers due to connecting dealers and expertise

– Stronger relationships with customers, partners and suppliers

– Smarter and more motivated cross-functional teams and projects

«With the help from the organizational network analysis, we can now see the connections. This has been of great value to us going forward. It has allowed us to play to our strengths and challenge much larger competitors in the market», Voll says.

 

In 2019, two years after the initial project, Mobit decided to perform a deeper analysis of the merger and how the organization had been able to drive collaboration after the JOIN21 process. This will be the topic of a forthcoming article.