Understanding the value of the network - By Eoin Lyons
Much has been written about the value of the network in business. In “The Role of Networks in Organisational Change” (McKinsey Quarterly) network density is measured using “centrality” (connections per person) and “cohesion” (average number of steps to reach all members). It contains a case study of a leading provider of outsourcing and IT consulting and demonstrates the positive impact on density of a programme to improve connections and eliminate bottlenecks.
I find the density measurement interesting but I would like to better understand how we use networks to deliver more value. I worked with a colleague in the recent past who I felt had the most dense internal network in the management team. This was based on his tenure and historic mobility in the organisation. I encouraged him to use this network when trying to deliver an important project he was leading. In practical terms it meant stepping outside the traditional project structure and creating a wider conversation to influence, align and gather resources.
Engaging around the edge of the project had a positive impact on success. The relatively smooth delivery of a complex project and the positive PR it delivered for the manager got me thinking. Is the underlying value of the network the ability to use a relationship as opposed to the sum of the skills and competencies of the nodes? If the network itself is an asset, the more dense the more valuable, how to we actually get better use of this asset to deliver competitive advantage?