Living in a network age requires new skills, especially for leaders. It’s time to distinguish management practices based on context. Command and control may be required in some situations, but when it comes to collaboration and innovation, only a management style based on principles of net work will do. Here are seven for today, the seventh day of net work.
Network intentionally. High-performing people tend to have stronger, more intentional networks. Think about your own personal network and ask yourself whether it is diverse enough and broad enough to support your goals. Also, are you networking your group or organization, making the necessary connections across boundaries to facilitate the flow of new ideas?
Practice network stewardship. Pay attention to the health of the networks for which you are responsible. Use the three mapping tools, four design facets and the eight tensions (tomorrow) to diagnose problems and develop remedies.
Know your place in the structure. We all have structural roles in a network as well as (perhaps) titles. As a leader, do you need to be the hub or the weaver? The orchestrator or the collaborator? Know when it is time to share or relinquish leadership. Be mindful.
Embrace complexity. Learn to distinguish the complex from the complicated and act accordingly, using the complexity mapping tool listed on the Third Day.
Leverage technology. There is no excuse for not surveying, learning about, and introducing social technologies to help people in your networks connect and engage. (You have to wait two days for the Nine .)
Create the capacity for net work. Encourage those about you to develop skills to build and leverage networks in all their endeavors. The world is waking up to this. In a modest poll by Work Literacy, Network skills get the most votes for knowledge areas in which people see the most opportunity for improving effectiveness.
Use the network lens. We live in networks all the time, like fish in water. We have to step outside of a context to see it clearly; apply the network lens to bring focus to action.
Here on the sixth day of net work, I thought it would be good to revisit a key piece of the organizational network analysis literature. In all my posts, I take for granted that readers here understand that we must understand networks in order to work and be successfully and effectively at work and in the world.Taking networks for granted may imply, for some people, that they think they understand how networks work, including the informal organizational networks in large organizations.
To build better networks, we have to communicate more. Actually, what we need is a lower quantity of information, and more targeted, filtered information to the people who need it.
Everyone should be connected to everyone else. What a jumble the world would be if we tried to be connected with everyone. Consider how much difficulty we have now trying to keep up with our extending networks in FB, Twitter, and so on.
We can’t do much to aid informal networks. I wrote an entire book on ways that networks can be supported and sustained. Informal networks need management to give them an environment in which connection and collaboration are fluid, valued, enabled with appropriate tools.
How people fit in to networks is all a matter of personality (which can’t be changed). When we talk about successful personal networks, we are not talking about extroverts who excel at “networking events,” but serious professionals who deliberate and carefully create and manage relationships
Central people who have become bottlenecks should make themselves more accessible. Accessible to more people? How does that remove a bottleneck? How about a central person works at brokering introductions to move knowledge around the network and shifts responsibilities by delegating certain knowledge areas to others?
I already know what is going on in my network. Social/organizational network analysis practitioners know full well that a map of an organizational network always contains surprises. Sure, savvy executives may have some insights, but will always welcome the detailed analysis that includes metrics that lead to action.
Isn’t it time to start a list of myths about social media networks? Here are a few to get started. What are yours?
The number of people you follow or who follow you on Twitter is an indication of how influential you are. Actuallyi influence is a complicated calculation that takes into account not just who follows you, but who follows them, the number of people reached, frequency of tweeting, responses, etc. See Twinfluence‘s top 50 by the “reach” metrics. (Metrics are fully explained here.)
Social networking sites are for the younger generations. Most of the people I follow are in my own age bracket, which I’ll place at 50+, plus have you looked at LinkedIn lately?
You can’t build quality relationships online. Many of my professional and family relationships are richer, broader, and tighter because of our online connections. (Thanks to Digital Labz via Social Computing Magazine for this one.)
Here are some corporate social media network myths from Andrew Gent:
Use of social networking sites negatively impacts employees’ performance at work.How about some of the positive aspects of using social networks, like the way that 70% of nGenera’s 91 hires over the last year came from employee and recruiter social networks?
Employers troll social networking sites to checkout potential employee. Maybe some managers with too much time on their hands, but shouldn’t managers be encouraging people to reach out, extend their networks so that more ideas and brains can be access to solve hard problems?
There’s a strong connection between entrepreneurs and coffee shops. Entrepreneurs — tired of working in isolation — so frequently head to the local coffee shop that it’s become a cliche.
In a coffee shop with other entrepreneurs amid the hustle and bustle of activity, at least they feel connected to the rest of society. For some, it energizes them to have human interaction around them.
Drea at BusinessPundit.com suggests that coworking spaces may displace coffee shops as the workplace of choice for entrepreneurs who are tired of working at home alone, but equally tired of the limitations of the local coffee shop. In Coworking vs. the Coffee Shop: Who Wins? she writes:
Coworking, on the other hand, allows you a range of cafe-like benefits, without the cafe:
-You pay a flat membership fee instead of a daily fee.
-Everyone has a laptop!
-You get the chance to collaborate with your peers.
-The seats are probably more comfortable.
-Cell phone use is more acceptable–it is a workspace.
-The hip factor may not be a factor, although I am not sure about this point.
I think co-working can be a helpful arrangement for some people who work best in an environment with the stimulation of other people around. On the other hand, it might quickly become a negative experience — and distracting.
Here, for instance, is an image of a coworking space from CoworkUtah.
CoworkUtah features a particularly social flavor of coworking — they call it a “social media community workspace.”
To many people this would be an inviting scene. It’s a warm, relaxed, welcoming work arrangement with other humans around. It feels like you could occasionally bounce a question off of someone, or kick around that new idea you have.
But here are the downsides — people who:
talk loudly on their cell phones right next to you, while you are trying to concentrate
want to endlessly chit chat with the neighbors around them
hog up the best chairs and table space, every single day
You catch my drift — there are a dozen ways others can annoy you in a communal shared space. To some degree it depends on how the coworking space is set up and how closely together you are all crammed in.
I can see how coworking might be energizing and attractive to some, especially extroverted types who crave social interaction and feed on the energy of other people around them. Probably a good target market for coworking spaces are entrepreneurs who would otherwise go to a coffee shop, but are looking for an experience superior to the coffee shop experience.
For those like me who cherish quiet concentration, an absence of distractions, and complete control over our physical setting, it is probably not our cup of tea. But, then, I never much liked working in coffee shops, either.
The purpose of a network is that which animates it and engages its members in caring about it. Because networks can be so rich and multilayered, I simplified the perspective by defining five broad categories of network:
Mission: Social good or environmental improvement at the local, national, regional, or global level
Business: Creation of tangible value — business development, production of goods and services, financial wealth, or any operationally output-focused endeavor.
Idea: Generative thinking for innovation, problem-solving, or advocacy
Learning:Continuous improvement and enhancement of personal or collective knowledge
Personal: Individual support, growth, and knowledge
We see overlaps in all sorts, for example, we may develop a strong personal network in the context of our business or social pursuits, but the value we receive from each remains distinct. As I said in yesterday’s post, all networks have a purpose, and all networks produce value. The net work is to distinguish what that value is, and to take action to appreciate it and make it appreciate.
One of the exercises I include in my NetWorkShops is to ask participants to list the networks to which they belong, and to ascribe a purpose to each. People report overlaps, but also insights that come from clarifying what it is that they get from each network they belong to. This is part of the net work shift that comes with the network lens.
Purpose, structure, style, and value. What I came to learn about how to understand networks came down to these four simple aspects:
Purpose. I assert that all networks have a purpose, even if it is not yet discovered. If it can be identified and has a name, its purpose can be discerned. (More on Purpose on the Fifth Day.) The purpose drives action and commitment. Loose purpose leads to loose commitments and ultimately a network breakdown. Clear purposeand commitment enable a network to accomplish much more than any one person or part can do alone.
Structure. I can’t say enough about how understanding the structure of a network provides clues to how it operates and how it can be improved. The tools provided on the Third Day can be used to understand the structure and the patterns within it. Hub and spoke = command and control. Federation = decentralized command and control. Core/periphery = vibrant core with an ever evolving ecosystem of participants.
Style. The network’s style is in its look and feel, leadership attributes, the emotional resonance of the network’s interactions, its space, place, and pace, its culture. (More on Style on the Eleventh Day.)
Value. Just as all networks have purpose, they all produce value. That is value for the network itself, for the individuals in it, and often a larger set of beneficiaries. A strong network of nonprofits makes each nonprofit stronger, increases the effectiveness of the people in it and their personal reward for doing good work, and enables the network to reach more people and provide more resources. Business network for the sole purpose of creating more monetary (or monetizable) value.
Use this simple mantra — purpose, structure, style, value — as a guide when you are thinking about creating or joining a network. Can you characterize it? Can you support its purpose? How is it structured? Is leadership held tightly or distributed? Does the language used by those in the network speak to you? Does the network listen to you? What value does the network produce and for whom? Working through these four facets will give you a headstart on making sense of the network, your role in it, and how to engage it.
A powerful aspect of working with the network lens is that the lens offers visual tool that help you to see structure and patterns in the network. The visualizations often confirm the results of assessments reached through deductions and logic, but just as often offer insights that would not otherwise be possible.
We live in a visual time, and there are a plethora of visual tools to support how we work (see Celine’s recent post on MindMeister). I use the following three to help me (and others) make sense of the networks that are important to them.
Organizational network analysis (ONA)
Value network analysis (VNA)
Cynefin methods for mapping complexity
Organizational network analysis is a method based on social network analysis (SNA) that collects relational information about people, organizations, events, and so on, and produces statistical analyses and visual network maps illustrating or highlighting aspects of the relationships. I find it very helpful even as a “back of the napkin” exercise, to help people understand where there are gaps or bottlenecks in an organization. Maps can help identify people who are key to the organization who might not otherwise be recognized, and opportunities for creating connections across groups who may benefit from exchange of ideas or knowledge.A network map illustrates people (nodes) and ties (connections between them). Ties represent the nature and strength of the relationship: How often are ideas exchanged? Do people know each other sufficiently that they know when to call on them? Do people receive value from their interactions? There are wonderful examples of ONA on Valdis Kreb’s site; if you want a deeper dive into how it’s done, you can download my four-part SNA Masterclass.
While ONA maps the network at an individual level, Value network analysis looks at the ecosystem of exchanges within the network. In a VNA, nodes are roles within the network (funder, beneficiary, community,volunteer) and the ties indicate what flows between them. Flows represent tangible goods and services (money, food, training, reports), but more importantly the intangible (recognition, reputation, tacit knowledge) benefits that come from interactions. A VNA can illustrate important gaps in reciprocity or lost opportunities for learning, and can establish a baseline for improving any of the specific flows in an overall process. For more information on VNA, download Verna Allee’s paper or peruse the Value Networks web site.
Mapping complexity with the Cynefin framework does not show flows or exchanges, but it does provide insight into the nature of relationships, processes, and events. Dave Snowden‘s Cynefin framework is based on a set of distinctions about human complexity; it enables us to differentiate among four descriptive domains: the simple (well known, repeatable, subject to simple cause and effect), the complicated (knowable through the application of specific expertise), the complex (based on shifting, mutable relationships, understood in hindsight), and the chaotic (completely unknowable and inaccessible). The framework supports sense-making activities that operate on three principles: fine granularity (The collection of large quantities of information objects…), distributed cognition (…patterned by a group of people who have experience of those objects…), and disintermediation (…who can access the data and the patterns without the intervention of consultants or analysts). Dave and co-author Mary Boone have described the power of this framework in decision-making in their HBR article of November 2007.
All three mapping tools can be used in the foreground or the background. In the foreground, they are organizational interventions that bring people from across group boundaries into a sensemaking environment where they can generate shared understanding and move into action. In the background, I often use them for myself or with a small group in a client’s workspace to highlight a problem or opportunity area, or just to help the mindshift needed for net work.
One new feature is agent scripting that walks agents through a call script to ensure consistent handling of customer interactions. Agent scripting includes: complex branching logic, complete control over the format and layout, ability to capture and validate data right within scripts, and an intuitive graphical user interface that lets general business users create scripts. There is a WYSWYG interface for creating these scripts. Authors can then use a mashup capability to add in other data sources such as Google maps for locations. They can also pull in legacy application data to the agent desktop via their desktop add-in framework..
Andrew said that this new capability is especially useful for new agent on-boarding in a field that still runs over 30% annual turnover. The consistency from agent scripting is even more important for highly regulated industries such as financial services. This capability is offered in an on-demand model. Here is an agent script screen.
Another new feature is guided assistance. It gives the agents more control but it delivers quick trouble-shooting capabilities through a series of questions and answers that direct agents to appropriate knowledge answers. Guided assistance can be used in combination with RightNow’s broader agent scripting capabilities. Guided assistance can model the best practices of the best agents. Here is a guided assistance screen.
In a past life I had a lot of experience with call centers and saw how more primitive versions of these features could really drive agent performance and deliver a positive ROI. We found a three-fold increase in cross selling success, significant reductions in escalations to supervisors, repeat calls, etc, when agents used the knowledge base of best practices. I can only imagine greater returns here.
The new release also offers a desktop add-in framework. This feature allows customers and partners to easily add additional functionality to the agent desktop. The desktop add-in framework integrates applications, tools, or web services into RightNow’s On Demand Agent Desktop, streamlining many agent processes, such as: computer telephony integration (CTI), address validation, return merchandise authorization, and order processing.All this should also address agent productivity. Here is a slide show on the new contact center capabilities.
Andrew also said that the Obama Answer Center, built on the RightNow platform, is still up and running after the election to answer transition questions. I hope it continues into the next administration as applications like these promote more public involvement in government. RightNow also confirmed that the Obama campaign completed the integration of the contact information of everyone who had connected with the campaign site into their database, creating a common database of all contacts. This was underway when we last spoke.
Be sure to catch Bill Ives' ongoing review series in which he looks at online, sharable database apps. The focus of Bill's reviews: web-based business software that enables companies and individuals to better organize, track, and share information, as well as better manage projects, processes and workflows.
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