Communities of practice are usually not formally recognized within an organization but can be critical to an organization's ability to leverage expertise distributed by virtue of physical location or organizational design. ONA can be used both to uncover the key members of the community as well as assess overall health in terms of connectivity.
We conducted a network analysis of a customer-facing service community
of practice in a large oil and gas company. The community consisted
of employees spread across seven countries. Senior managers wanted to
understand the network of connections among the different countries.
They believed that promoting collaboration across sites would reduce
re-work as well as improve the quality and innovativeness of work done
Key Findings: The network maps revealed very little information sharing across countries. In many cases there are only four or five connections between each country and in some cases no connections at all. On a more positive note, we did find a high level of collaboration within each country. This was especially the case in the country that had successfully reduced losses due to poor quality. A close look at this country indicated that there was a high level of collaboration between the different functional groups. It is also very clear from the network map that three people were playing prominent boundary-spanning roles between several of the countries. Our initial belief was that these boundary spanners were acting as vital conduits of information between the countries. To our surprise, after interviewing several key people in the community, we found that the boundary spanners, known as global advisors, were more information bottlenecks than connection facilitators.
Changes: As a result of the network analysis and a feedback session with many of the network members several changes were made. First, the organization developed a business-driven communication plan, which provided a clear charter to tackle tangible initiatives. Second, the company developed a self-service portal that included expert locator functionality. Third, several community of practice events were conducted. This has helped community members meet and know each other-enhancing trust and therefore facilitating sharing and the breaking down of silos. Fourth, to address the role of the three people who had become bottlenecks, there was a move away from the centralized organization design model to one that was more dispersed and participatory with an emphasis on distributed decision-making. Specific people in each of the countries were assigned the role of local knowledge champions.