A core function of top executive teams is to acquire information, make sound decisions, and convey those decisions effectively to the broader organization. ONA, when done with both the top leadership team and the next layer down, can provide valuable diagnostic information to leadership. Not only can it help assess connections within a top leadership team, but also it can reveal how information is entering and leaving this group.
Challenge: The professional services division of a global technology organization had grown rapidly and succeeded in accelerating the technology organization’s introduction of high-value services. However, after a year and a half of frenetic growth, the top executives of this division had become concerned that their organization was not working the way they had hoped. We were asked to examine the extent to which this group was effectively collaborating as a decision-making body. The executives were responsible for ensuring that all sales opportunities included substantial service components. Their direct reports managed the resources and clients: these were the people who sold and delivered solutions to customers. Thus, collaboration both across practice areas and hierarchical levels was critical to the effective functioning of the division as a whole.
Key Findings: The network map on the left shows information flow in the extended leadership team. Each practice is coded in a different color, with large nodes representing the top executives and smaller ones their direct reports. The network map on the right shows the same network with the top nine executives removed. In this case, despite good intentions and engaged executive leadership, the equivalent of functional silos had emerged underneath each of the executives. Of course this was a problem because people lower in the hierarchy needed to connect across divisions to provide competitive solutions for customers.
Changes: As a result of the analysis, the executives identified seven problematic junctures and took actions to bridge these gaps. For example, one of the key gaps lay between business consulting and the managed services practice. Business consulting provided an exceptional opportunity to sell services, yet the level of collaboration between these two practices was limited to three weak connections. Another important disconnect existed between the enterprise customer group and the business consulting practice. Two weeks following the presentation of the network analysis results, the managers of these two groups agreed to create a position for a senior manager who would work specifically on developing and implementing a sales plan and managing resulting business opportunities. In addition to focusing on the problem points between the practices, managers without exception took an active interest in applying the network analysis results to their own groups. Specific presentations were done for employees in each of the practices to allow them to assess both their internal connectivity as well as opportunities for integrating across business lines. These half-day workshops helped managers understand the importance of networks and of creating grass-roots initiatives throughout the various practices to promote network connectivity.