Monday, September 08, 2008

Internal Networks Exist

Leaders this post is for you.

Have you identified the internal network of connections that exist within your organization? No I am not referring to the org chart or the list of employees that belong to which department. No the network I speak of is the one that supersedes that which is formally designated by management and exists in the bowels of your organization. The very real network that evaluates your every move, provides a bully pulpit for those who can't or won't be heard in the boardroom and ultimately represents the true pulse of your organization.

Oh that network you say? I know about that network. I understand it. I sure hope so. Because not understanding the intricacies of the internal network that exists within your organization can be dangerous.

Last week DELL announced that they would close or sell most of their manufacturing facilities. See the news report by clicking here. The funny thing about this announcement was the buzz that permeated the local coffee shop I often stop at in the morning, weeks before the news became official. The shop is frequented by many Dell employees and for the past few weeks there have been numerous conversations about the possible changes that would be coming. The informal network was abuzz with conversations about the various rumors, the impact such moves would have and whom might be affected.

The conversations weren't necessarily positive. The attitudes expressed were certainly not happy and upbeat. From the casual and outside observer, these people looked worried and in some instances, angry. Now imagine one of those people being an active business unit leader. I have no idea if any of them are, though the frank and often unbelievable conversations that I have overheard (they are hard not to), indicate there are some leaders amongst the group. What influence might these conversations be having within their own internal network when they get back to the office?

This is a very large and overly exaggerated example and I don't wish to try and tackle the internal workings of a major company like Dell - at least not on my BLOG. However it does provide a unique and somewhat scary example of what might be disseminated amongst these peoples' internal connections when the water cooler and parking conversations inevitably happen. And trust me...they will - whether they occur before or after such an announcement.

Internal networks can be an incredibly useful tool if a leader understands them and appreciates how they can be utilized. The network can seed the grapevine of behind the scenes conversations happening right now (yes in your company as well) with the right information to alleviate stress and concern that an announcement such as Dell's could have on their employees. But in order for a leader to understand the power of such a network, they first have to understand where the network exists and identify who on the team plays an influenced role in facilitation and communication. That can be tricky but not impossible to identify.

If you are a leader of an organization and you don't understand where your internal networks are, then we should talk. Whether you run a big or little company, internal networks exist and whether you believe it or not,they are impacting your organization in a variety of ways. Just like with Dell, the conversations which are already happening can have an impact that Ripple in ways that can be either positive or negative. Which one would you prefer?

Ripple On!!!

To contact me please email me at Steve AT ripplecentral dot com

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