Prediction: Data will reveal relationships that ignite productivity

Posted by Timothy Davis and Jeff Mike on November 30, 2018.

Last year we noted that organizations were in the early stages of adopting Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) tools to measure followership and mentorship, as well as help leaders understand how teams and the company as a whole communicates.1 In 2019 we will see organizations transforming through the use of ONA, revealing the informal linkages that show how work actually gets done.

Organizational charts are helpful for understanding hierarchies and lines of reporting—but in fluid environments, no static org chart can capture how work gets done with any level of accuracy. ONA offers the opportunity to take workforce data and visualize the analysis and insights, with the ultimate objective of strengthening the connections that exist between employees and removing barriers to productivity. Moving forward, we see ONA tools being leveraged in three key areas.

ONA will drive deeply accurate insight into organizations
In its most simplistic definition, Organizational Network Analysis generates a map of an organization’s nodes and ties. Nodes represent the job roles, and ties the communication events, or interactions, going on at work. Understanding how the actual connections in an organization supplement org structure and operating models is critical to a cohesive strategy and beneficial company culture.

Furthermore, ONA allows leaders to take a deep look at processes—for example, how to get a report approved. What are all the communications required to make approval happen? What work needs to be done before a report goes into the process? What are the informal interactions between team members, and between teams in different units of the organization, that affect report creation? These informal processes can be just as important as official channels.

ONA will help organizations understand their team of teams
A “team of teams” is a fluid org chart that does away with traditional hierarchical structure. In this model, different teams come together to solve business issues, which can include creating cross-functional teams that take people outside of their structured roles. These situations might have people managers working at the individual level on special projects, and individual contributors working as elected leaders on a team for the duration of a process or project.

The shift to team of teams is ongoing, and we expect to see it even more in 2019. Fortunately, ONA is well positioned to study this new organizational dynamic. Because ONA is visualized, fluid structures are more easily explained than the traditional organizational chart composed of boxes and arrows. Rather than explicating the command structures, ONA illuminates the relationships that drive how work actually gets done. Workforce transformation will evolve more easily as leaders gain the ability to identify influencers and implement change management visually.

ONA will inform how jobs are designed
Job roles are no longer static, and traditional job design strategies are expensive to implement. ONA allows for dynamic observations of how people interact to perform work. In fact, it lets leaders visualize communication events and essentially see how a project is going based on who is talking with whom, how the work is getting done, which nodes are the leaders, which nodes are interacting, and so on.

The exciting element here is that job design will be happening in the flow of work. As ONA digs into node behavior, it becomes clearer which activities are required for each role, minimizing the gap between job design and job-in-practice.

Looking ahead
Network analysis has a demonstrated track record in a number of fields. Biology uses network analysis to map DNA and program genes. Computer science has used network analysis for years. And, of course, the internet is built on networks. The math on how to do these analyses is all the same, but now we can apply these techniques to the social and communication data typically overlooked in organizations.

One of the strengths of network analysis is the graphing and mapping capabilities inherent in the data relationships. In the coming year, Bersin,TM Deloitte Consulting LLP will be exploring how to visualize networks so that leaders don’t have to be mathematicians to understand the data. We will also be looking at teams and how ONA will help understand the work of teams. As the rise of the social enterprise demands that organizations be adaptive and responsive to disruptive change across functions, such tools will be critical.

Every day from November 27 through December 6, Bersin will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2019.

Check back every day, or visit on December 18 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Timothy DavisTimothy Davis, is a senior research analyst at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
Jeff MikeJeff Mike, EdD, is vice president and HR research leader at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1 Predictions 2018: Embracing Radical Transparency, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2018.

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