How informal networks reflect your organization's culture

Tree interview with Ignacio García for the National Quality Foundation originally published in FNQ Portal

Each and every organization can be considered a large network. However, connecting all parties involved and identifying which communication flows interfere with the organization's business and positively mobilize it, generating cooperation and innovation are constant challenges. We interviewed the expert Ignacio García of Tree Intelligence, expert consultant in Network Intelligence: the expert explains to us his thesis of Innovation Mapping and Management and its importance for organizations seeking cooperation, energy and innovation.

How do you explain informal networks within an organization? 

“Informal networks are the pulse of an organization. In Brazil there is an approaching term and that is the “radio pawn”. But it is not just a network of rumors, but the flows of knowledge, advice, collaborative energy, new ideas, among other relational dimensions.

They determine how work is done on a day-to-day basis, and when they do not create synergy with the formal organization chart, they can become counter-power spaces where informal leaders end up controlling the flow of strategic information and creating bottlenecks. that damage the organization as a whole. ”

We can consider that the whole organization is a network. How can this informal network leverage or hurt an organization's business?

“An organization can be viewed as a large network that will not always interconnect all its parts. It is common, for example, to observe departments that do not communicate but should. The x-ray of informal networks places them as subnets isolated from the rest of the organization, identifying a weakness of this organism.

We often say that each organization has a particular network “topography” and that, in a way, represents its organizational culture at a given time. The ideal topography for each organization will depend on different factors such as: segment, size, brand positioning, strategic planning, among others. An integrated reading of all these elements makes it possible to design and stimulate work networks more efficiently.

In general terms, networks with poor interconnectivity within and across departments reflect a uncooperative, energized and innovative organizational culture, which negatively impacts all aspects of organizational performance and climate. ”

What is the relationship between company culture and informal networks?

“As I mentioned above, for us the form (“ topography ”) that informal networks adopt is a relational reflection of organizational culture at this time. This is clear when organizational networks are mapped before and after a merger, acquisition or restructuring takes place. In these cases we observe how informal networks tend to maintain pre-change patterns of relationships, having great difficulty adapting to a new unified formal structure that is very efficient on paper but not in practice. ”

According to the example given during your graffiti x diamond talk, how can identifying these key elements influence an organization?

“I use this analogy because innovation can happen by recombining the interconnection of the same elements in a strategic way, as with the alchemy of graphite structure (which is two-dimensional) to diamond structure (which is three-dimensional).

Minor changes may result in disruption to the system in question. The first step is to understand what the relationships between known network elements (people, in our case) are like to draw a new structure that intelligently recombines such elements.

Often simply identifying individuals with the ability to interconnect silos (we call them “bridgemakers”) is already a big step towards further strategic encouragement of the organizational network. ”

What are the key figures of an organization and their power within a company?

“Bridgemakers” are keys to driving innovation and the quality of relationships because they make the organization more cohesive and therefore more efficient and innovative.

However, not everyone can be a “Bridge Maker”, nor is this a priority at all times. In the case of an innovation process, after a first stage of exploration of new ideas through weak links and in which the “Bridges” are fundamental, in a second stage of exploitation or prototyping, they are the strong bonds and the most important "local hubs".

There is no exact formula or ideal figure, because it all depends on the list of different factors to consider when diagnosing an organizational network-culture and proposing ways for its development. The important thing is to do this through descriptive, explanatory, and even predictive models of the complex networks that are established in both nature and human organizations. Our challenge is to make these models effective network management tools, because in the Age of Interconnectivity this is the key to the success of organizations. ”


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