Agility and product innovation can be difficult to master. Most companies that invest in Agile product and software development methods (in pursuit of enhanced innovation, quality and speed) fail to overcome the obvious: entrenched norms, beliefs and behaviors. Worse, Agile “improvements” often inject new conflict into the work processes. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the basic structures of an Agile Enterprise
already exist – they are the informal networks of relationships
underlying the formal hierarchy. Unlocking the potential of these highly participatory relationships is the work of scaling agile.
The proven scientific methods of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) can reveal the “invisible” ways in which work is really getting done in an organization.
Leaders seeking enterprise agility need to intentionally enable and nurture the networks that span technical areas across the company in order to deliver finished products and services. Different teaming levels are interacting: portfolio teaming influences program level teaming which drives working surface level teaming. People and teams that used to be separated by formal structure are now partnering together on a daily basis. With the help of managers, members of each of these teams can intentionally structure their networks to foster collaboration, share resources and knowledge, and learn collectively. These networks are far more effective and efficient than any process or procedure and produce competitive advantage that is necessary in the turbulent, uncertain Digital Age.
Organizational Network Analysis (ONA)
Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) reveals the relationships employees depend on to succeed in their jobs.
An ONA visually depicts the conversations that accomplish the work, the trust between people and the flow of information and knowledge across boundaries. The goal of ONA is to clarify the network structure so that gaps, fragility, and overload can be identified and corrected. At the same time, ONA can identify opportunities to connect people with those they’ve never worked with to share ideas, experience, cross-pollinate work, and learn collectively.
- Identify and engage internal thought leaders to help drive strategic initiatives. ONA provides a way to visualize the structures of the networks that drive collaboration, information flow, project coordination and social influence. Leaders may have one impression of who the key influential people are, but ONA reveals the “hidden” gems that are often overlooked by leadership. This enables them to fully tap into the organizational network beyond their own personal experience. Additionally, the ONA identifies individuals that are core to the network and whose absence would create a significant negative impact. This is important and a generation of employees heads toward retirement, potentially leaving knowledge and network holes in the organization.
- Utilize “weak ties” to spread the word and enroll people where they can contribute. A weak tie exits when two people are acquaintances rather than close associates (a strong tie). Exploiting weak ties by encouraging connections outside of the team or established network jumpstarts the process of collaboration and speeds of the flow of information and knowledge. A wave of people seeking knowledge from others within the network will fuel others to do the same (the network characteristic of reciprocity), which improves problem solving and resource sharing.
- Enabling network “Surge”, designing networks and making them obvious to members allows them to naturally respond to constraints, opportunities, barriers, and pressures – called a network surge. ONA provides the insight network members need to naturally or instinctively reach out and connect with other.
The first step of enabling strong, active human networks is for leaders to see the “as is” of their organization, how work is actually getting done. Then, performing an ONA, uncover the surprising truths about how their structures, processes, and teaming are either enabling or hindering work getting done. With the network structure and key members identified, leaders can begin to intentionally shape the way their organizations interact, establishing the roles of Boundary Spanner, Connector, and Information Broker.