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Organizational charts reflect hierarchy but that rarely describes how work gets done any more; organizational network analysis can help

Every successful team has at least one person who knows “how to get things done.” The analyst that everyone goes to for background information on clients or the manager who offers ideas on new technologies that could be used in different projects.

Increasingly, it’s through these informal connections – not just through traditional organizational hierarchies – that works gets done. This reflects a much broader trend that employees now need to collaborate far more with each other than they once did to accomplish the same tasks. The problem is, however, that these connections are not always predictable or between parts of the organization that need it the most.

Organizational Charts Don’t Work

A company’s formal organizational chart is still a useful document for showing who is supposed to be doing what, and who has formal authority over different teams and divisions of the company, but these shifts in how work gets done mean that org charts now rarely illuminate who has critical knowledge and guidance that improves how everyone accomplishes their work.

Examining the formal and informal networks that exist in the workplace can help companies transform corporate culture, make change management initiatives more efficient, promote inclusiveness, and influence a whole host of other factors that make a modern company a success.

Organization network analysis (ONA) is a statistical technique that evaluates how employees interact, influence each other, and share information. By identifying the connections among employees, ONA provides a visual map of employee interactions, showing where hubs of activity lie within the organization, where employees are isolated – and so not as productive as they might be – and also where employees have made surprising connections that may spark a more formal rethink of work processes.

How to Make the Most of ONA

Companies that use ONA identify opportunities to increase collaboration between the right people. ONA can be carried out by asking employees just two survey questions, both of which can easily be or administered in a short, stand-alone survey. Companies can then use ONA to accomplish two important tasks.

  1. Identify opportunities to increase collaboration:The first step is to identify the most connected and engaged employees who have the most influence on their coworkers. Through this process, companies can identify communication patterns in the organization, including bottlenecks, liaisons, and isolated employees —all of which affect efforts to get work done more efficiently.

    ONA is helpful during organizational design as it makes it easier to place employees where they can be most effective. It can also help establish information exchange and collaboration for isolated employees and business units.

  2. Smarter transformation: By involving influential employees in organizational initiatives, information can be diseeminated more effectively and change can be adopted more quickly, limiting costly disruptions. For example, one company in CEB’s networks used the most connected employees as a bellwether group to provide input on action plans.

    Using ONA increases the chances that informal leaders help make a change management project a success.


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