Following our post on creating a culture of helping, we have outlined how organizational network analysis (ONA) can contribute to the understanding of your organization to improve communication between employees and increase morale. Visualizing and understanding the informal way in which communications, information, and decisions flow through an organization can help strengthen culture, as these spontaneous, critically important connections are the lifeblood of organizations. Having strong networks are correlated with the health of an organization as people with stronger personal networks are more productive, happier, and better performers while companies who know how to manage alliances are more flexible, adaptive and resilient.
Organizational networks consist of nodes and links. There are three types of nodes; peripheral, central and the knowledge broker. Central nodes are the people who seem to know everyone. Central nodes share lots of information and influence groups quickly as they are often well liked and are highly engaged in company news and developments. An example would be an influential manager or a well-liked secretary who keeps in touch with many people in the company. Knowledge brokers create bridges between groups. Without knowledge brokers, information and idea sharing grinds to a halt. An example would be an HR team member who specializes in recruiting for a technology branch at a company; they provide the flow of the information between the two teams. Peripherals are often unconnected to the rest of the company; where high-potential peripherals can be a risk to organizations due to a lack of connection and exposure to other employees. An example of a peripheral is a team member who does not engage with the rest of the team due to an unspecified reason such as a lack of fit in company culture. Ties are the formal and informal relationships between nodes. Establishing optimal relational ties between central nodes and knowledge brokers helps ensure useful information moves easily between and within groups, while engaging peripherals keeps them invested in the company, their peers and their work.
The importance of ONA is in its ability to use talent efficiently and understand connections in an organization. ONA can reveal which positions and units are interacting to get work done minimize role confusion and redundancy. By increasing functional clarity the true resource cost of activities as well as the actual work performed under each job title can be exposed. ONA provides a fresh, informed perspective for defining the future state of functions and activities, from department level to individual contributor. This can provide valuable insight into the current and future state of decision-making and governance in your organization and makes it easier to see how to integrate the right people into the flow. Through ONA, organizations can help identify role redundancy within a network, potentially freeing talent to fill more value-added activities. Using ONA to inform organization design efforts can help increase operational effectiveness by building an organization that is structured to increase collaboration and exchange of information between the right people. It can help transform organizations in a smarter way by identifying formal and informal leaders who can be counted on to facilitate change and help accelerate the realization of transformation benefits. Building an agile company and ecosystem relies on understanding your team; by running a network analysis you can begin to understand the flow of information and create a culture of understanding and open communication.