Sunday, December 13, 2009

No man is an island - truer today than ever?




Illstration by Jessica Hagy.

A survey by NEHRA (The Northeast Human Resources Association) from earlier this year found that informal networks are linked to success of change initiatives:
93% of completely successful change initiatives were led by leaders with very strong or strong personal networks. Not one change initiatives described as less successful was led by leader(s) with strong or very strong personal networks.

On the other hand, the majority of less successful change initiatives (73%) were led by people described as having moderate or weak personal networks.
Knowledge work is truly collaborative, and personal networks are the ground on which knowledge workers stand.

Today, the nature of work is changing for knowledge workers as they find themselves working in more complex work environments due to mergers and acquisitions, frequent organizational changes and partnerships. Their work environments are also becoming more disconnected as a consequence of the globalization trend and the increase of work in virtual teams, outsourcing and telepresence. They are also having more and more interactions with more – and often unknown – people.

At the same time, knowledge workers typically rely very heavily on their network of relationships to find information and solve problems. Informal relationships among employees are often far more reflective of the way work happens in an organization than relationships established by position within the formal structure. However, these are often invisible or only partially understood by managers. This problem is growing with the delayering of organizations, virtual work and globalization.

Supporting and making the interaction in these networks visible is important to facilitate effective collaboration. There are today many direct enterprise equivalents to Facebook and LinkedIn that allow us to become aware of who is who, the status of their projects, what they’re working on, where they currently are, things they’ve found and shared, and so on. Knowing these things makes it much easier to build and use our personal networks.

To some, terms such as Enterprise 2.0 and social software might seem as overhyped buzzwords. But when they eventually take a deeper look at the drivers beind these, they will find that they all comes down something very basic, human and eternal:
“No man is an island, entire of itself: every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

John Donne, Devotions XVII

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