Which one would you rather be?

There are two kinds of employees:

  • Those who react to the day-to-day issues, and those who prevent them from occurring in the first place
  • Those who make themselves indispensable (mainly by retaining knowledge), and those who make their knowledge available (ensuring the organization’s sustainability)
  • Those who go fast by going alone, and those who go far by nurturing a culture of collaboration
  • Those who get things done, and those get things right
  • Those who get comfy in the status quo, and those who face challenges head-on
  • Those who set the bar, and those who choose to see no bar

One would survive, but the other will thrive. Which one would you rather be?

Along came the Dinosaur!

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Ferenčak 

I like dinosaurs. I find them intriguing to say the least. Probably because they belong to a distant era that we only read about in our science curriculum. Or maybe because they have been the subject of public imagination for so long. To be honest, I mostly like them because I know for a fact that those life threatening creatures (well, most of them anyway) don’t live among us anymore…. Well that’s what I thought until I heard this :

« I’m offered a training in ****** (an IT technology that needn’t be named) along with a to-be signed commitment to stay in the organization for the period of 7 years after the training. Of course if I’m willing to leave, all I need to do is pay back the « whole » amount of the training before leaving »

Ok, so let me get this straight. You’re offered a training that will obviously not only benefit you but benefit your organization as well. And you are to either seal 7 years of your life with the organization or pay back the whole, apparently not subject to depreciation, amount whenever you choose to leave. That, despite the fact that the technology can become obsolete by the time you hit your second year. Hmmm.

So I asked myself the question : who does that ? Who still does that ? … Dinosaurs, exactly ! But since dinosaurs are supposedly extinct, those must be some special kind of dinosaurs with special powers. So here is today’s realization : Super dinosaurs are still living among us. And here is how you can spot one :

  1. Doesn’t know he’s a dinosaur
  2. Horrible at math* (Not sure he knows of the existence of a calculator)
  3. Still thinks that employees are cogs in his machine and that they can only have access to the knowledge he gracefully hands them (Internet? what’s that?)

….And to think that people are discussing Social Capital. Not around here anyway !

On a final note: I stumbled upon this article from Forbes that lists the 10 reasons top talents leave organizations. Something to learn from, I hope!

* A friend made the pertinent remark that he’s not really horrible at math, He just makes all the wrong calculations.

The promise of Social Network Analysis

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Photo courtesy of quinn.anya

Here is a fact: Organizations are a set of interwoven networks, embedded in bigger networks. They thrive or die according to their networks’ health. And while most organizations are aware of that, few ever act with a network-aware mind.

A social network approach is primarily concerned with the interconnections between [actors], rather than being focused on their attributes or behaviors. The patterning of such connections – the configuration of positions and relationships – constitutes the structure of a social network, from which the social behavior of individual members can be analyzed and interpreted. This structural arrangement has important implications for the [actors] involved as well as for the overall social network, insofar as it enhances or constrains their access and control abilities.

~Emergent Leadership in Virtual Collaboration Settings: A Social Network Analysis Approach. J. Sutanto, C. Tan, B. Battistini et al

Thinking organizations as networks relies on different lenses:

– A micro lens zooms on the employee and his ego-centric network
– A macro lens xrays the interactions between different subgroups of the organization (business units, project teams…)
– A holistic lens studies the organization taking into account its context (socio-economic context, partners, …)

Each lens requires different network measures and concepts. And each lens answers a different set of questions. Example: The HR department needs to know how the new recruits are doing after 6 months of hiring them. A viable approach would be to conduct an ego-centric network analysis on the recruits. The main objective is to identify the ties among the new recruits and other employees. If the recruits are still peripheral it’s time to take action to help them integrate. Launching an internal mentorship program for instance can help new recruits meet key collaborators that could help them advance their work and nurture a sense of belonging.

Thinking organizations as networks doesn’t necessarily come with extraordinarily out-of-the-box answers but it surely sheds the lights on problems from a different angle. The emergent body of research and application of Social Network Analysis has provided some important insights on how thinking with a network perspective can be associated with organizational benefits (better collaboration, enhanced innovation etc.). However, there always seems to be quite a chasm between academia and corporate business and many techniques developed by the research community still haven’t made it in the real-world yet. An interesting classification I came across the other day aims to cross this gap to some extent as it tries to map SNA techniques to business processes. The framework is based on the APQC Process Classification Framework and lists the various uses of social network analysis depending on the business process at hand (Operating or Management and support process).
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Source: Social Network Analysis and Mining for Business Applications. F. Bonchi, C. Castillo, A. Gionis, and A Jaimes, Yahoo! Research Barcelona 

I have come to think of this framework as a good list of the promises Social Network Analysis makes. While it is true that many techniques stated above are still in their infancy and face numerous technical and cultural challenges, it is only a good thing to keep an eye on their progress. You may never know when the opportunity of applying them presents itself.
We will go into the details of these techniques and the challenges they face on our upcoming blog posts. Until then have a look at your business processes and see if any of these techniques would fit. We would love to hear your feedback!

It’s gonna take a while

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Photo courtesy: dilbert.com

Many organizations are asking about how much will it take them to come afloat/ succeed / innovate / become a fortune 500… ? well, here are some simple truths:

If you still think authority come from titles, then it’s gonna take a while.
If you still have the factory mindset, then it’s gonna take a while.
If engaging, motivating and empowering your employees is the last thing on your mind, then it’s gonna take a while.
If retaining information as a token of power is how you operate, then it’s definitely gonna take a while.

You want a better answer? Try rethinking all of the above. Then maybe, it won’t take that much time after all…

Lamia Ben.