Here’s a new twist on the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Leaders can now get a picture of the ties and connections in their group or company — and whether those working relationships and networks are helping or inhibiting success.

The process is called “network analysis.”

“A network is about patterns of interaction and whether those interactions support or don’t support strategic objectives,” says Rob Cross of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. “It’s about understanding information flow, decision-making, trust and energy among groups of people.”

“Often a network analysis shows that a few key individuals, outside the formal structures, play an instrumental role in holding together a critical and strategic process,” Cross continues.

Using network analysis, leaders can see, utilize and appreciate those informal connections and shortcuts.

Organizational network analysis can be done in different ways; Cross has developed a Web-based survey that draws on more than a decade of research about what the networks of high performers look like. It gives individuals insight into their personal networks — are they too isolated, too central or not strategically plugged in? On the organizational side, it gives a detailed picture of where networks are working well and where networks are ineffective or missing.

With network analysis, organizations can start to put a cost on too many layers or gaps in the network and figure out ways to be more effective.

CCL has partnered with Cross on a number of programs and events. We’ve found network analysis to be a practical and effective tool for managers that pairs well with various leadership development efforts.

For example, many companies struggle with the need for more — and more effective — collaboration. Network analysis and CCL’s boundary spanning work help make that goal tangible and achievable.

“Network analysis allows the leadership team to see where there are collaborative breakdowns or silos that are really going to undermine mission-critical work,” says Cross. “Seeing these boundaries is the first step to bridging them. Then CCL’s boundary spanning practices can be applied with the people and in the junctures that matter most.”

Network Best Practices

Want to make your network more valuable? Rob Cross offers these guidelines:

More isn’t more. Leadership effectiveness is not tied to the size of your network. High performers typically have core networks of 12 to 18 people.

Structure counts. Networks need to help you bridge different groups of people and cross hierarchical, organizational, functional and geographic lines. Core connections should include people with formal — and informal — power.

Keep the pushers. You need people in your network to push you to learn and challenge your thinking. Too many leaders rely on like-minded people, anchoring their thinking rather than driving learning and innovation.

Learn more by reading the “Nurture Your Networks” article in CCL’s Annual Report.

Bring this topic to life for your organization through CCL’s Speakers Bureau

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