High AR

Mastering Turbulence through High AR

Being Networked

Working Like a Reticulist

Building High AR With and Through Others

Recognizing and managing the power of networks for value

It is the interdependencies we have with others that create value. Humans are social animals, and we routinely interact with others to achieve ends beyond our own capacity to achieve. However, those same interdependencies transmit disturbances from the environment and become the sources of the turbulence that must be managed. Being Networked is a capability that recognizes the tradeoffs among value, costs and risks that reside in work-related and organizational relationships.

From a networking perspective High AR comes from explicitly recognizing connections with others, then systematically building new ones where value can be created, nurturing existing ones that continue to deliver value, and ending those where the costs and risks are simply too great. Those who engage in such processes are reticulists – they design, build and manage networks to achieve their ends. Table 8.1 from Mastering Turbulence illustrates this tradeoff and the strategies appropriate for each of four possibilities.

Figure 8.1 - Joeseph McCann & John W. Selsky, Mastering Turbulence

Being Networked as an Individual

Valuing personal relationships inside and outside the organization

Being Networked at an individual level means recognizing and assessing the quality of relationships you have with others. Internal organization networks are critical, and high performing individuals in organizations are noted for having extensive vertical, lateral and ‘diagonal’ relationships outside of formal reporting channels. Volunteering for cross-boundary projects, and participating in company-sponsored mentoring programs, sports groups and social events are good ways of building networks that can be activated when formal channels are not enough or even fail.

When the stress and anxiety associated with turbulence builds, the most important relationships may not even be at work, but at home, with friends, and in the community. As turbulence accelerates, the world can begin to feel very small and enclosed. Such feelings can be countered by reaching out to others, taking a break, and enjoying relationships that benefit the soul.

It is not, however, enough just to recognize those relationships. You need to manage them, which means building new ones that promise value, sustaining valuable ones that already exist, and ending those that vacuum out value with disruptiveness and potential damage to your network.

Recommendations for Being Networked as an Individual

  • Master the principles of personal networking.
  • Become adept with the multiple social-media technology tools for managing personal networks.
  • Appreciate how your personal relationships give meaning to your work and life and sincerely work at maintaining them.
  • Get out of your office and move about the organization. Participate in cross-boundary groups and activities to build relationships that expand your circles of knowledge. Do the same thing across your external professional associations and groups.
  • It is challenging to understand when a relationship is not healthy and only disrupts or distracts. Get good at ending these quickly and neatly, unless there are very, very good reasons to maintain them.

Being Networked as a Team

Moving as one, linked to all

As we’ve stressed before, the role of teams in organizations is a powerful one that must be utilized to full extent. Teams are potent tools when functioning well. Being Networked at a team level means assuring high quality relationships among members through investments in careful selection, development, and maintenance that promote superior individual and team performance.

Being Networked, however, also means being effectively linked with other teams and key managers both vertically and laterally. These are the relationships that will serve a team during duress and enable the team to have full impact. Teams can get overwhelmed and will need access to resources and assistance for their survival at critical moments.

Recommendations for Being Networked as a Team

  • Invest in team relationships by making sure members know and value each other in terms of their contributions and also simply as people. Pay attention to the social life of the team.
  • Provide the tools and opportunities for teams to interact with each other. Mix it up by cross-training members across teams and make it as easy as possible for them to work with each other. Carefully manage the interfaces between teams.
  • Encourage teams in building relationships outside the organization with other teams and groups in key organizations and groups that you rely upon. Facilitate your team’s interactions with external teams. Trust is essential in highly turbulent settings and building confidence in each other’s capabilities under stress becomes essential. Getting your teams to periodically interact face to face with external teams is advisable.

Being Networked as an Organization

Thinking and acting globally through networks

Few organizations fully appreciate the number and complexity of the networks they operate within. There are the obvious first-order relationships of vendors, customers, and other groups in direct interaction with your company, but each of these are, in turn, connected to others in second- and third-order relationships with what some scholars call your ‘fringe stakeholders’. All of these relationships can become salient during rapid and disruptive change. They are the transmitters of change and need to be recognized.

More and more companies are operating on a global scale in innovation networks through design and development teams, sourcing parts and services, and developing new markets. Some are very competent in assessing the costs and risks associated with those relationships, others less so. Cross-cultural competencies and networking skills are in high demand and will only increase in importance.

In addition, many companies are now entering the unfamiliar world of social media as active participants in social networking platforms which function with their own unique rules and rituals. How successful those corporate forays into social media networks will be depends on a company’s ability to adapt to – and shape – those new-media cultures.

Recommendations for Being Networked as an Organization

  • Map your network relationships. For instance, research the technique of stakeholder mapping. Learn how these networks function and your respective roles within them.
  • Develop the competencies and skills for identifying and extracting value from those relationships. While this sounds opportunistic, what we mean is appreciate how they can add value to what your organization wants to accomplish. Assure your goals and needs are compatible with their goals and needs– or can be negotiated to be compatible!
  • Find opportunities to stress test your networks in terms of AR. Make changes and improvements as required.
  • If your company decides to participate in social media networks, learn the rules of the road and how to participate without destroying value – or your reputation.

Being Networked as an Ecosystem

Networking – the essence of ecosystem functioning

A lot of important work in building High AR can occur at an ecosystem level. Ecosystems are networks of organizations and groups that are interdependent in some form – in a supply chain, an industry, a policy sector, a community. They share interests, a basic feature of networks. Comments about ecosystems on our other capabilities pages have stressed how benefits accrue to an organization from the added scale and scope, and pooling of knowledge and resources, in an ecosystem. The capability of Being Networked is concerned with how organizations interact and how they realize those inherent benefits within that network.

Ecosystems vary greatly in their level and quality of organization – governance structures and formal processes -- which is why some fail during extreme turbulence and others persist. They must at a minimum be capable of attracting, pooling, and allocating resources while managing the costs and risks associated with their relationships. Think about the near meltdown of the global financial system a few years ago as a case study.

Recommendations for Being Networked as an Ecosystem

  • Global value chains, supply chains and innovation networks are the channels through which much work is now done and much corporate value generated. Accept that premise and move quickly to perfect the competencies and skills needed to operate on the ecosystem level.
  • Approach network design and management as a science, that is, an object of systematic inquiry and learning. Adopt the technologies required to perfect that science.
  • Being Networked is powerful but carries associated costs and risks. Become comfortable in making difficult decisions about network members.