Agile Organizations explore the Power of Networks for Culture Renewal

In today’s digital world there is an increasing spectrum of ways to connect with each other digitally: virtual groups and teams, communities of practice, webinar meetings to name just a few. As a result, it is difficult to imagine work getting done without harnessing the power of networks in our organizations.

However, when it comes to organizational culture, companies have a tendency to under utilize the power of their networks. The abstract nature of culture may be one reason why this dynamic component of culture is underestimated. Renewing a culture is a difficult enough challenge for CEOs and leaders in an organization – never mind reflecting upon how to tap-into a company’s networks to enhance its organizational culture.

Networks are fundamental to the Culture Renewal process. Cultural messages often contain predominantly emotional content. A rational discourse based purely on logic will not produce the desired impact when the values or purpose of an organization is the key message. Nor is an official communication from a leader in the organization the most effective way of communicating this kind of message. Conversations on culture best take place in an informal setting with one’s peers. To address this need, Ensemble Enabler has pioneered the use of Culture Cafes and Peer-to-Peer Learning as a very powerful combination. Together these approaches engage employees at all levels of the organization to understand, internalize a company’s messages from a personal perspective, and, as a result, make these messages their own.

Current Advances in the understanding of networks have made this process even more powerful. For more than twenty years, Professor Rob Cross, Professor of Global Business at Babson College (Massachusetts, USA) has been researching and studying networks in organizations. His research led to the development and refinement of the concept of Organization Network Analysis (ONA). ONA supports organizations to better understand how people collaborate with each other and highlights the patterns of communication which exist within an organization. For instance, an Organization Network Analysis can help identify where counterproductive silos exist which constrain effective collaboration.

Peer-2-Peer Learning

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ONA also helps to identify different roles within a network of working relationships. Two of these roles – central connectors and brokers – play a pivotal role during a Culture Renewal process. Central connectors are people who have a large number of direct relationships within a certain area of the organization. They gravitate towards having a good overview of their place within the organization. Central connectors are often the individuals who employees turn to for information and input. Brokers, on the other hand, have connections across subgroups in a network which are cross-functional, hierarchical or geographical lines of demarcation. These individuals are critical for any initiative which span organizational boundaries.

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Ensemble Enabler designs our approach to Culture Renewal process around those individuals who have effective ties across the organization. These are employees who naturally take on the roles of central connectors and brokers. By carrying out an ONA analysis prior to a Culture Café, these individuals can be identified and effectively targeted as part of the invitation strategy for the participation in a Culture Renewal Initiative. Through their active participation, their persona magnifies and accelerates the dissemination of core cultural messages.

Moreover, there are also individuals who create energy in the relationships around themselves. Think about the energy in a group: In every group there are always people we like to be around and those that we don’t. This first group is called Energizers. Being in contact with individuals like this fills us with positive energy. Individuals are more likely to listen to Energizers. This is an especially important when the emotional content of a Culture Renewal Initiative is concerned. By integrating the following question to an ONA survey, Energizers can be identified:

“Please indicate the people whom you consider to be a source of energy and enthusiasm for you at work. In other words, the people who make you feel enthusiastic about your work and leave you with a heightened sense that what you do at your organization matters.”

Energizers make excellent moderators (Learning Coaches) of Peer-to-Peer Learning conversations which often take place before a Culture Café. These conversations of 4 employees who accompanied by a Learning Coach last 90 minutes. (Read more about this process in detail) These kind of small scale conversations among employees form a key component during the Culture Renewal process. The conversations serve as medium to successfully communicate and disseminate facets of an organization’s culture such as vision, purpose and values throughout the company.

Networks matter!

Harnessing their power is vital to an impactful and sustainable Culture Renewal process.

In additional to benefiting from the use of Organization Network Analysis, Ensemble Enabler supports organizations during their Culture Renewal learning journey through a broad spectrum of processes such as Digital Leadership Sprints, Peer-to-Peer Learning, Culture Cafés, Systemic Dialogue and Cluster Communication. All our efforts focus on designing tailor-fitted approaches to address the special needs of an organization.

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