The transition to networked accountability

At the expense of being repetitive, I keep seeing this same pattern that Tom Haskins got me started on and which he summarized in reading situational responses:

Then I read Charles Jennings’ post on accountability for business results and saw a similar four part process, but Charles shows how the transition from one structure to the next is not linear at all when viewed from the perspective of the two axes of Autonomy & Strategic Alignment.

Charles’ C-Curve is a model in practice, based on his experience as CLO of Reuters. I see a parallel between this migration of the learning and development (L&D) department and the social order necessary to do certain types of group work:

  1. L&D Autonomous = taking action as a Tribe of its own
  2. L&D aligned with organization = coordinated with the Institution
  3. L&D with governance structure = able to work in a cooperative collaborative Market
  4. L&D strategically aligned = a collaborative co-operative member of (a) Network(s)

Note: I’ve re-thought my use of the terms co-operation & collaboration here.

I wonder if this curve describes other departments in different organizations. It is evident that there is greater freedom either as a tribe or in a network, while institutions and markets restrict freedom. Could it also hold that previously tribal organizations (1) may thrive best in networks (because they are used to more freedom) if they can successfully make the transition between the other two stages? I have noticed that it is difficult to convince organizations steeped in the institutional model (2) that the networked model may be better. Those who already have to respond to markets (3) understand the value of networks (4) much better, in my experience.

12 Responses to “The transition to networked accountability”

  1. Stephen Downes

    I’ll have more to say on this, but for now…

    > L&D strategically aligned = a collaborative member of (a) Network(s)

    What part of ‘being in a network’ relates to ‘being strategically aligned’????

    Being in a network is exactly the _opposite_ of being strategically aligned.

    You and I are in a network – but we do not collaborate (we do not align ourselves to the same goal, subscribe to the same vision statement, etc), we *cooperate*

  2. Stephen Downes


    collaboration means ‘working together’. That’s why you see it in market economies. markets are based on quantity and mass.

    cooperation means ‘sharing’. That’s why you see it in networks. In networks, the nature of the connection is important; it is not simply about quantity and mass.

  3. Harold Jarche

    Stephen, I had read your earlier criticism of the use of these terms and didn’t quite understand what you were getting at. Given the above, cooperation makes more sense as the term to describe working together in a networked (non-directed) relationship.

  4. Tom Haskins

    Hmmm. Those tribal teachers dishing out assignments in their isolated classrooms say they’re “networked” because they use an ATM, check their account balances online and get emails from I beg to differ. They are no different from the L&D departments lacking accountability at position 1 of the Jennings/Reid-Dodick curve above. This got me thinking about how to identify a “real network” from the trappings of being connected. Here’s what I came up with.

    Tribes only have internal communication. Members are only connected to themselves. They are embroiled in us/them, friend/foe battles. They are like silos inside institutions without the institution. They shun efficiency and accountability in favor of their autonomy at all cost.

    Institutions nurture tribes inside vertical silos that receive communications, directives, pronouncements from above their level in the hierarchy. They are out of the loop with anything horizontal– other silos, constituencies, institutions, etc. Their communication from on high is a one way street. Back talking is considered to be insubordination, disrespectful, overstepping bounds, etc. Efficiency gets enforced through policies, best practices, coordination meetings, shooting the messenger, etc. Inhabitants of silos lack sight of the big picture, outcome measures, alignment with mission, etc.

    Markets nurture tribes of their customers, talent pool, journalists who cover their industry, etc. Market enterprises maintain two way communication up and down their internal chain of command. Higher ups find out what their front line is learning through horizontal communications with customers, employment candidates, journalists, etc. Everyone inside the enterprise shares the big picture, outcome measures, alignment with mission, — that add up to accountability, alignment, etc. Recipients feel served by attention, innovations, responses and changes, not just the “quantity and mass” of deliverables.

    Genuine networks nurture tribes as communication nodes, each with a bounty of inbound and outbound connections. Horizontal, two way communications define the network. What occurs by all the back-n-forth transmissions is generative for the immediate participants, but also for any others tapped into the two way transmissions. Efficiencies and accountabilities work themselves out emergently, amidst all that egalitarian collaboration toward shared understandings, solutions, value, etc. Autonomy of each node co-exists with larger purposes, process efficiencies and continually learning from the fire hose of transmissions on the same level.

    Thanks for the link and the Jennings/Reid-Dodick curve above. I really like that picture of a “return to autonomy” without a loss of alignment.

  5. Jon Husband

    What part of ‘being in a network’ relates to ‘being strategically aligned’????
    Being in a network is exactly the _opposite_ of being strategically aligned.
    You and I are in a network – but we do not collaborate (we do not align ourselves to the same goal, subscribe to the same vision statement, etc), we *cooperate*

    I’m not certain that this isn’t a sometimes-false dichotomy. I think it can be useful to look at the purpose of the network, and I think we may still be in the too-early days of operating in (more) visible networks to state categorically that it’s clear that networks do not operate in the aggregate ‘on purpose”, and thus may benefit from the strategic alignment of the network members towards that purpose.

    I also need to think more about this …

  6. Jon Husband

    Heh .. now that I’ve gotten going early on a Sunday morning .. I have thought more about it, no doubt too quickly.

    Many (increasingly more ?) of the networked initiatives being developed are by interest groups for interest groups, aimed at a specific purpose or having (creating for themselves, by signing up, engaging wit, etc.) some call-to-action or other. And from the architecture of the blog, wiki, Twitter account, other plug-in web services and what-have-you, it seems clear to me that the networked initiative is asking, by definition, those who sign up, become members, who engage … to align (and act, online) strategically, at least to some explicit degree.

    No ?

  7. Harold Jarche

    So there is some inherent characteristic of networks that members align strategically, even if this is more implicit than explicit?

  8. Jon Husband

    In response to your question, the first thing that comes to mind is “what is your reason for being in, or part of, any given network” ?

    Yeah, I know that it’s banal 😉 but it’s one of those questions that must be asked if we’re gonna talk about things like strategic alignment.

  9. Jon Husband

    Oh … and sister questions:

    1. What do you think is the reason this network exists ?

    2. Why does it keep operating, what sustains it ?

    Answers to the three, taken together, might help identify something inherent or implicit, if nothing explicit is stated.


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