An Introduction to Informal Networks
Informal, self-organising networks ...
... in organisations are not social networks. They are hidden networks of human connections that underpin and enable the work that gets done in organisations, whenever the formal structures, systems and processes fail to provide a perfect environment - which is ‘situation normal’. Such organisational networks:
- Are dynamic and ad-hoc
- Provide a channel to release knowledge and intellectual capital
- Operate at the boundary of stability and chaos
- Drive change processes towards emergent order
- Create and sustain emergent strategy
- Respond to the huge constraints that all organisations impose on employee performance
- Surface hidden issues and priorities - and drive emergent change
- Enable their members to focus their energy and intellectual capital on developing and implementing ‘work arounds’ to deliver value to customers
Informal Networks - The Unknown
- They are complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted - as well as hidden
- They are not permanent - they adapt to changing circumstances and needs
- Membership changes from topic to topic - and from time to time
- They may be working for you - or not
- Often, little is known about them...
- ...and why they exist.
- And, critically, what is needed to enable them to operate more effectively.
Informal Networks and Control
- Informal networks introduce new voices, new perspectives and new passions to the development of emergent strategy
- Management control over informal networks is a contradiction in terms - the true role of management is one of enabling and facilitating - not control
- Order in informal networks is provided by three mechanisms:
- Natural survival - they implement self-organising change
- Experimentation - experiential learning and reality anchoring
- 'Corporate council' - the ultimate sanction on resource allocation