29 June 2020

Building effective networks

Breaking down the silos. Digital transformation. Increasing operational flow. All buzzwords with an intriguing feel to many leaders. But do these leaders understand their essence, and do they dare breaking down the silos they have built?

 

Digitalization does not bring results. Digital solutions are merely tools that can help us work smarter and make the organization more agile. However, to know which tools you need and where to implement them, first you need to understand how your organization actually works. Without insight as the laying groudnd, there’s no building a good plan.

 

One look at a network

One of the key insights any organization can get is how their employees, partners and customers work as a network, rather than a formal, hierarchal organization. In front of you are the network maps of one Norwegian organization, JOIN21 created upon gathering data points from surveys and the organization’s existing communication tools.

 


 

It looks complicated at first glance, but upon closer look or with an expert to guide you through, they reveal deep insights that can lead to strategic shifts. First things first, each dot represents an employee. The arrows between dots shows who each employee consults or sends information to. The thickness of the line represents the frequency of consultation. The larger the dot, the larger the volume of requests from other people. Knowing that, let’s dig deeper.

 

Silos and speed bumps

The network map of this organization reveals that a few individuals are very central – to the extent that they could be bottlenecks that slow down the communication and workflow in the organization.

 


 

This means the company could improve its information flow if more people communicated directly instead of relying on these few people. The map also reveals several small groups with little connection to the rest of the network.

 


 

These are so-called silos, isolated groups in the organization, linked only through a few individuals who serve as gatekeepers. It is not uncommon to find entire departments, branches or even sister companies working as completely isolated silos. This means they are cut off from the information sources, unable to learn from best practices, company expertise, and basically condemned to repeat the mistakes of others. On a company level, it costs money, time and makes the organization less likely to innovate or even keep productivity level competitive.

 

Improve by insight

In an increasingly interconnected world, it is important to combine hierarchies and networks, understanding both the formal and informal relations at play in your organization. That’s the key area where Network leadership can give you valuable insight on how the organization can thrive and fulfill the full potential of its employees. In the case of this organization, they found ways to grow based on network insight. Once they saw the blind spots and wasted resources in their network, it became clear that they should increase interaction between different departments and experts in order to share knowledge more efficiently. We advised them to implement technological solutions such as cloud services, bots or collaboration platform could help communication across departments. This improved workflow, boosted innovations (thanks to matching different know-hows), increased productivity and cut costs and time spent on repetitive tasks.

 

The network focus may be intimidating to some leaders because it challenges the traditional, hierarchical view. The truth is that these networks exist whether one sees them or not. If they are invisible, they are hard to influence. Once revealed, however, they unleash a flood of potential. It is in the network of people and their relationships that knowledge lives, trust grows, and work gets done.

 

The Scandinavian advantage

No organization is the same and every network will look different and ask for different leadership decisions. But from a value perspective, leaders who understand networks have a unique advantage compared to those who cling to the old, hierarchical power structures. That’s exactly where the Scandinavian leadership model has advantages. Its inclusivity makes for a perfect basis for network leadership. With good algorithms, new technology and smart collaboration tools, Scandinavian organizations can gain unique insights and get ahead of the vast majority of companies worldwide.