Case Study: How Organizational Network Analysis Helps Organizational Development
The usefulness of organizational network analysis within the organizational context goes beyond change management and into even more traditional forms of change management. In one published case study, consultants used an organizational network analysis in combination with a traditional organizational development solution to reduce new packaging designs and implementation effort for a global health products company ( see Garcia and Shin explanation of the case). In this case study, consultants were hired to assess and redesign workflow processes relating to the creation of innovative packaging for the company’s health products. The company believed that innovative packaging would be its best way to market to new potential consumers in retail isles. However, efforts between the design team and the manufacturing team often resulted in failure and in several examples, resulted in a delay of over 12 month for product roll-out. In another case, the changeover of millions of dollars’ worth of manufacturing equipment due to design changes were severely delayed.
The solution came by integrating both the traditional of organizational development and organizational network analysis.
The consultants on this project began with several stakeholder interviews and then a network analysis for the two competing departments. What they found was that a fundamental process redesign was not necessary, nor would it have solved the packaging issues. The results from the stakeholder interviews provided that the top three issues (from the stakeholders perspective) were: no standard packaging process, misaligned missions and goals, and poor definition of roles and responsibilities.
The consultants, after viewing the network map resulting from the ONA, theorized that those were not the real reasons behind the division’s inability to design and execute on innovative packaging. Their organizational network analysis confirmed their new hypothesis, that cross-functional collaboration between the two teams (design and manufacturing) was almost non-existent. With only one person on each team connected to the other team and overloaded with communication as they continued to act as sole representative of his/her department. Clearly, it was not that there was a lack of communication, but that all communication was being done by a single person on each team, creating a communication bottleneck, and preventing important information from reaching the team members who needed it most.
In one case, “Gene” a manufacturing team member, was contacted by several design team members, but had not even been aware that they had tried to contact him. “Although most of the R&D team indicated that they contacted Gene for packaging development, Gene did not confirm that these individuals sought him out” as they explain.
The consultants on this project are organizational development practitioners who will admit that “a process engineering project on its own would have been unlikely to identify the reason for this bottleneck in the workflow.” The proposed solution was a traditional OD solution in this case, as in most other cases: They asked the leadership team to create collaborative workshops that would allow members of both teams to interact and discuss roles and responsibilities.
The result was the creation of a new pilot process based on the consultant team recommendations that would improve and align communication between the design team, and the manufacturing team. Shortly thereafter, the company rolled out the newly created process across the entire organization resulting in significant benefits to the company in productivity, project turnover, and communication between members. Knowledge sharing received a boost in quality as well.
Organizational Network Analysis is complementary to traditional organizational development practices and if used effectively can provide much needed insight into organizational dynamics.