As a leader have you ever wondered why change initiatives so often don’t generate expected results? How you can completely re-design a reporting structure and have so little change in the day to day operations and interactions? The answer according to a recent Partnering Resources article is in the hidden network in your organization that you overlooked and didn’t include in your change strategy – the informal human network.
In any organization we all know who to go to when we need help with research or to trouble shoot a certain computer program or other specific information – and it isn’t always the person appointed by the organization as the expert. These informal information networks keep organizations running smoothly and can seriously boost productivity and innovation. So how as leaders can we leverage these networks to affect organizational change?
The first step is identification, particularly the key players in any network. Maya Townsend, author of Leveraging Human Networks to Accelerate Learning identifies the key influencers of any informal network:
• Hubs are directly connected to many people and, as a result, have the ability to disseminate information quickly. Hubs sometimes become bottlenecks: people so overwhelmed with information requests and communications that their productivity wanes. When this happens, the ripple effects have a disproportionate affect on the network and many people feel the results. They help CLOs spread information and accelerate change by getting messages out quickly and effectively across a wide network of individuals.
• Gatekeepers stand at the intersection between parts of the organization or areas of expertise. They can be the managers who, for sake of control, prohibit anyone from working with their direct reports without them present. They can be the executives who shield their organizations from abusive colleagues. Or they can simply be subject matter experts who can easily and quickly access people in a certain field of knowledge.
• Pulse-takers are the covert influencers within networks. They’re often more knowing than known, and they connect with others strategically. They can be the Machiavellian, behind-the-scenes players or quietly influential informal leaders who people turn to during times of uncertainty. These are the people CLOs want to have on their side during major change initiatives because, with just a few actions, they have the power to accelerate or impede progress.
Once the key players have been identified the task of leveraging the network becomes simplified. Approach these people, discuss change initiatives with them, gather their perspectives and ultimately get them on your side! Once you have done that the important information and support for the initiative will spread naturally throughout the organization.
The Kingbridge Insight for this week is to “consider incorporating informal networks into your change strategy”. It may seem unnatural and even daunting at first but the potential benefits far outweigh the effort.