network management update

You cannot manage a network. As networks become the dominant organizational form, the way we think about management has to change, as well as the way those in positions of authority try to influence others. In a network society, we influence through reputation, based on our previous actions. This is why working out loud and learning out loud are so important. Others need to see what we are contributing to the network. Those who contribute to their networks will be seen as valuable and hence will have a better reputation and may be able to influence others. Management in networks is fuzzy.

Here is my principle of network management:

It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation that more creative work can be fostered. The duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge rests with all workers, especially management.

Principle of Network Management

1. “innovative & contextual methods” = in the network era work and jobs cannot be standardized, which means first getting rid of job descriptions and individual performance appraisals and shifting to simpler ways in order to organize for complexity.

2. “self-selection of tools” = moving away from standardized enterprise tools toward an open platform in which workers, many of which are part-time or contracted, can use their own tools in order to be knowledge artisans.

3. “willing cooperation” = lessening the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration and encouraging wider cooperation.

4. “duty of being transparent” = shifting from ‘need to know’ to ‘need to share’ especially for those with leadership responsibilities, who must understand that in the network era, management is a role, not a career. Transparency is probably the biggest challenge for organizations today, and it can start with salary transparency.

5. “sharing our knowledge” = changing the environment so that sharing one’s knowledge does not put that person in a weaker organizational position. An effective knowledge worker is an engaged individual with the freedom to act. Rewarding the organization (network) is better than rewarding the individual, but only if people feel empowered and can be actively engaged in decision-making. Intrinsic, not extrinsic, motivation is necessary for complex and creative work

A Framework for Network Management

In the network era, organizations need to build their own unique model, based on some general principles, within their specific complex context, which only they can understand. There are no cookie cutters to organize for complexity.

  • Improve insights – Traditional management often focuses on reducing errors, but it is insight that drives innovation. Managers must loosen the filters through which information and knowledge pass in the organization and increase the organizational willpower to act on these insights. Encouraging small experiments to probe the complexity requires an attitude of perpetual beta.
  • Provide Learning Experiences – As Charles Jennings notes, managers are vital for workers’ performance improvement, but only if they provide opportunities for experiential learning with constructive feedback, new projects, and new skills.
  • Focus on the “Why” of Work – Current compensation systems ignore the data on human motivation. Extrinsic rewards only work for simple physical tasks and increased monetary rewards can actually be detrimental to performance, especially with creative work. The keys to motivation at work are for each person to have a sense of Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness, based on self-determination theory. – Relatedness “is the universal want to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others”. This is what it means to be a social enterprise, and why social learning is so important to help knowledge flow.
  • Help the Network Make Better Decisions – Managers should see themselves as servant leaders. Managers must actively listen, continuously question the changing work context, help to see patterns and make sense of them, and then suggest new practices and build consensus with networked workers.
  • Be Knowledge Managers – Managers need to practice and encourage personal knowledge mastery (PKM) throughout the network.
  • Be an Example – Social networks shine a spotlight on dysfunctional managers. Cooperative behaviours require an example and that example must come from those in management positions. While there may be a role for good managers in networks, there likely will not be much of a future for bosses.
  • Distributed authority –  Coupled with a willingness to experiment, distributed authority is needed to ensure the organization stays connected to its outside environment. People at the outer edges of the organization often can see the environment more clearly than those at the centre.


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