Harnessing the power of informal employee networks

Harnessing the power of informal employee networks

Formalizing a company’s ad hoc peer groups can spur collaboration and unlock value.

Lowell L. Bryan, Eric Matson, and Leigh M. Weiss

This is an article of McKinsey Quarterly.

You can learn how to use the internal networks in your organization for improving collaboration and value generation.

The Enterprise Web 2.0 platforms now increasingly adopted will enable the building of the networks! This is an example of how Web 2.0 enables new management forms, such as Formalized networks.

For me, the following topics of this article are key:

  • ‘Companies need to build infrastructures to create and support formal networks. Such well-designed and well-supported formal networks remove bottlenecks and take much of the effort out of networking.’
  • ‘To formalize a network, the company must define who will lead it—that is, the network owner—and make that leader responsible for investing in the network to build its collective capabilities, such as knowledge that is valuable for all members.’
  • ‘The responsibilities of the formal leader of a network are primarily limited to its activities, such as organizing the infrastructure supporting it, developing an agenda for maintaining its knowledge domain, building a training program, holding conferences, and qualifying members as professionally competent.’
  • ‘In professional firms, which have long used formal networks called practices (…)’
  • ‘To undertake the appropriate roles, a formal network’s leader should have a discrete budget to finance network investments, which give the leader the muscle to offer the members added value.
    These investments might include:
    – infrastructure, both human and technological,
    to support network interactions;
    – codified knowledge in forms such as documents,
    internal blogs, and “networkpedias”;
    – training for members;
    – and activities such as conferences to build a social community.’
  • ‘But the real measure of the network’s success would be qualitative assessments, made by members and senior leaders, of its effectiveness in realizing its mission.’
  • ‘By participating in more than one network at a time, talented workers would gain the ability to integrate knowledge and access to talent across a number of communities.’

A related great slideshow: ‘leveraging social networks for results’:


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