Core Topics …
Social Networks, Network Visualisation & Analysis (NVA), NVA Mapping, Influence Patterns, Communities of Influence, Advisory Committees, UCINETTM, KNETMAPTM
Key Issue …
NVA Mapping as a means to identify influential informal and formal organisational players such as leaders & innovators; also as a means to visualise the informal communications links and relationship patters across an organisation.
CASE 1: Identifying An Organisation’s Most Influential Formal & Informal Leaders & Innovators Via Network Visualisation & Analysis (NVA)
Copyright © 2008 The Leadership Alliance Inc. All rights Reserved
A major UK-based Retail Organisation undertook an NVA project in early 2004 with the primary objectives of identifying the company’s influential formal and informal leaders and innovators. The study targeted all members (approximately 100 individuals) of the three most senior management levels across all the company’s locations and departments. Internet-based questions were posed to this cross-organisational community, and responses allowed identification of appropriate influential individuals. As typically happens, there were many surprises re: individuals identified. The identified managers have since been organised into advisory committees and action learning based communities of influence. The formation of these groups has greatly facilitated successful design and implementation of the organisation’s new leadership development and innovative practices programmes. The study also provided invaluable insight into the informal communications links and relationship patterns across the organisation’s locations, departments, and management seniority levels; optimisation activities have been undertaken
The notion of networks as a dominant organising principle is well established to explain how organisations “really work”. Subject matter expert networks, leadership networks, learning and innovation networks, and communities of practice, are examples of organisational structures that contribute directly to value creation. Stakeholder relationships are also important intangible assets that contribute to this value creation. By developing NVA maps surface these relationships and therefore open them to better management and optimisation.
Unlike the formal organisation chart, NVA maps can frequently identify:
· Bottlenecks in key business processes;
· What would happen to a team if key members left;
· Sources of informal influence;
· Employees who connect to the far reaches of the organisation;
· A good candidate for managing a key department or a new department;
· Boundary spanners between contiguous network structures i.e. 'silos of expertise';
· Degree of employee collaboration and interactivity;
· “High Potentials”; and
· Opinion leaders
Analysis of NVA maps can also influence and help to prioritise initiatives such as leadership training, succession planning, and replacement planning, because they provide indicators for monitoring:
· The informal leadership of specific groups;
· Influencers on products/processes/services;
· Product/process experts (‘hubs’ and ‘authorities’);
· Fragmentation and ‘structural holes’; and
· The ‘reach’ of people (their influence)
KNETMAPTM is the Web-based data-gathering tool that builds NVA maps in real time based on data submitted from organisational members in response to a question, or series of questions, sent to them via email. It provides results that are both qualitative and quantitative. Each network map relates to a given question and depicts a particular dynamic in the organisation by showing who goes to whom for specific information. The process is typically as follows:
· A query is sent by email requesting the respondent to identify sources (individuals) that relate to the question;
· Each person in the target community selects from a list of names that are recognisable as colleagues and co-workers;
· New names e.g. external contacts, may be added to the list using a blank form;
· The Web-based NVA map is created in real-time after each submission;
· These maps can be archived for retrieval at any date, either for decision support, location of expertise, or to monitor changes in existing networks.
KNETMAPTM can show not only how an individual employee operates within her/his team or department, but also how teams and departments interact with one another, and how individuals/teams interact with external stakeholders. This mapping process is a vast step forward over conventional data gathering that would be carried out via face-to-face interviews.
UCINETTM is stand-alone analysis software for further analysing the exported KNETMAPTM data. UCINETTM is particularly useful for interpreting large maps of over 20 nodes (individuals in a study) with varying attributes.
UCINETTM uses robust social network measures to evaluate individuals, groups and the whole network. Its metrics include: Node and Network Centrality, Cluster Analysis, Small-World Networks, Structural Equivalence, External / Internal Ratio, Reach-In (many steps), Reach-Out (many steps). The analyses included in this report are based on the Reach ratios - Reach is one of the most significant metrics for network visualisation, because it reflects not only the number of incoming links an individual/node has, but most importantly reflects where those incoming links originate (their importance).
Issues Addressed In This Study
The study was commissioned with the objective of identifying influential individuals from the company’s three most senior management levels across all locations and departments) with regard to:
· Leadership … with a view to forming one or more a steering groups to facilitate development and introduction of a new Leadership Development Programme across the company;
· Innovation … with a view to forming one or more groups capable of enhancing innovation across the company, and who would double as opinion leaders to facilitate introduction and adoption of new innovations; and to
· Gain insight into the organisation-wide network of communications and relationships related to these themes
Two email-delivered questions that relate to the above objectives were posed to all members (approximately 100 individuals) of the three most senior management levels across all the company’s locations and departments. This community was further amended as responses were collected.
The two questions were:
1. In your role as a leader in our company, whom do you seek out for 'brainstorming' around dealing with complex issues in business, interpersonal or cross-functional situations? Think about people in your area and other people within the business.
2. Imagine that you are on a project to
develop an innovative approach to creating "a sensational place at Head
Office". Who are the 'ideas' people you want on the project team with
you, from your own or other areas?
Prior to undertaking the KNETMAPTM process and emailing out questions, the company’s HR Director sent out a note to the target community outlining the reasoning behind the project and setting out the process. Copies of the two emails containing the questions were sent to the target community on two separate days, and a period of two weeks was allowed for all those wishing to respond to the questions to do so. The final response to the questions was around 75%.
A series of web-based NVA maps (of people whose expertise was sought) were generated. After completion of the network visualisation, analysis, and interpretation, results were reported for further dialog and finally for action.
Figure 1 shows the NVA map for Question 1. As an example of its use, the “top ten” people sought out most often by others in a leadership context are indicated on the map by a blue circle. The NVA provided the names, locations and management level for a significant number of such dominant hubs of high influence. Similar results were obtained with Questoin 2 relating to innovation. Connecting these hubs through action learning based Communities of Influence has created (as intended) powerful and influential steering groups for the development and support of the new leadership and innovation programmemes for the company.
NVA also provided a list of names of (a) those who seek out the most influential individuals, and (b) those who these influential individuals themselves seek out. This has significantly contributed to understanding the informal communications links and influence patterns across the various organisational characteristics included in the study.
NVA maps were also developed to show the density (frequency) of communications between locations and between departments, leading to some remedial action to repair shortcomings.
Figure 1 NVA Map For Question #1 (All Nodes not Shown)
The data gathered in this study met the client’s objectives of identifying its influential formal and informal leaders and innovators. As typically happens, there were many surprises re: individuals identified. The identified managers have since been organised into advisory committees and communities of influence. The formation of these groups has greatly facilitated successful design and implementation of the organisation’s new leadership development and innovative practice programmes. The study also provided invaluable insight into the informal communications links and relationship patterns across the organisation’s locations, departments, and management seniority levels, facilitating remedial activities as necessary.