Peer-to-peer works, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is the WMD of change and transformation in organizations. I mean Weapons of Mass Diffusion.
Traditional management was established to work top down and through formal structures, such as teams and committees. More and more, the neat and innovative work is taking place outside the formal, hierarchical structures, in the informal networks of the organization.
Forming and nurturing relationships outside the formal structures is a new key competence for mangers and leaders, and for that matter, all employees. It’s not new, but the emphasis and the weight is.
But, in the last few years, we have gone a long way from seeing this intuitively and as an anecdote, to making it part of the leadership of the organization. It’s of course at the core of what is called ‘distributed leadership’. And it’s an engine far more powerful than the hierarchical one when it comes to shaping cultures, diffusing unwritten rules, copying and spreading behaviours, creating new norms, sharing and establishing new ideas.
Understanding and nurturing informal
relationships has become an
essential part of organizational leadership.
In the formal organization, you would not survive if you did not know the teams you have, their composition, their leaders, their goals etc. If you don’t have an equivalent for the informal organization (influencers, hyper-connected people, activists, mavericks, positive deviants, advocates, ‘who influences whom’ outside hierarchies– these are not the same, by the way), then you are missing at least three quarters of the game.
There are of course ways of identifying these informal, peer-to-peer networks and integrating them into the life of the organization. However, the formal organization likes swallowing anything. It’s a macro-phagocyte that will tend to corporatize anything that moves. And this is a life sentence for the peer-to-peer networks which detest the teamocracy of the formal system.
If you feel that you are a bit behind in all this, or that it is all very well conceptually, but not sure what to do about it, well, the world is in front of you. I am pretty sure that if you start with some simple homework, you’ll dig and dig deeper. From first gear to fifth or sixth, it is all doable.
Start of course by reading about SNA (Social Network Analysis) and then explore possibilities. We at The Chalfont Project undertake work with a particular peer-to-peer network of highly connected people through our Viral Change™ programme.