Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Identifying Company Influencers

Our partner public relations firm in Copenhagen, Kasper Westphal Pedersen, recently introduced me to a couple of principals from a management consulting firm there called INNOVISOR -- which has an interesting tool for identifying the most influential people and collaboration networks in companies. It is called Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) and it’s more effective than the traditional surveys used by many similar firms.

It was thus intriguing for me to see an example of ONA at work and how it really made a difference. ONA uncovers actual collaboration and influence networks across formal structures in the organization.

The situation, according to Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard, a leader of INNOVISOR, was the merger of two pharmaceutical companies to become one of the world's largest players. In its attempt to scale down, the new entity saw an opportunity for a 30 percent staff cut for economies in sales, admin and R+D, among other areas.

The objective was to retain key staff that people in the company preferred to collaborate with and those whose advice they sought when encountering professional challenges. ONA was applied to meet this objective.

The surprise? This amazing tool identified the most important influencers -- who were clearly not the five employees regarded as “critical change agents” by management of the pharma companies. ONA data revealed that those employees selected by management did not, in fact, have strong influence on colleagues.

Who was right? According to Jeppe, "The change agent identified by the ONA had seven times more influence among colleagues and, in addition, held a central 'broker position' between two clusters in the organization. Further analysis showed that none of the five management-appointed change agents were among the top 20 influencers."

This is a critical discovery for the future of the company and its productivity. It will influence work streams as well as how and to whom leadership and others communicate.

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