The Path To Synchronized Organizations
Most leaders focus on strategies and plans because that is what stakeholders are asking for. It is easier to formulate a story based on market analysis than it is to promote better organizational health. Nevertheless, research shows that informal networks within an organization are crucial to success.
We can no longer rely on hierarchies. The problem is not that they have suddenly become illegitimate, but that they are slow and the world has become fast. It is no longer enough to merely plan and direct action, today we must inspire and empower movements of belief.
So in addition to the role in formulating strategy and optimizing financial performance, managers must also seek to create synchronized organizations to carry out strategic intent. That requires a focus on small groups, loosely connected but united by a shared context.
Those close to us tend to have the same limited knowledge we do. They have similar experiences, are confronted with similar challenges and share many of the same personal relationships. So while our views tend to correspond to the local majority of our peer group, the global information we need usually lies outside of it.
That’s exactly what sociologist Mark Granovetter found when he began studying how people landed jobs in communities around Boston. It wasn’t through close friends that people found employment, but more distant acquaintances—friends of friends. He called the phenomenon the strength of weak ties.
It is the combination of tight circles and loose connections that drives high performing organizations. A study of star engineers at Bell Labs found that the most accomplished ones worked in a close-knit group, but also frequently reached out to people outside of it.
Another study of Broadway plays found the same thing. If no one in the cast and crew had worked together before then results were poor. However, if there were too many existing relationships, then performance suffered as well. You need the right mix of cohesion and diversity to both innovate and operate efficiency at the same time.
And that’s what makes synchronized organizations top performers—they are not only aligned internally but also able to adapt to new information that arises externally.