Category Archives: Collaboration Networks

OMG: Virtual-Matrix-Teams

I’ve seen the Matrix Management structure get stuck in analysis and not achieve the desired objectives.

Add a virtual component and you have to take a different approach.  The authors of the paper Managing Collaboration: Improving Team Effectiveness Through A Network Perspective1 looked at team effectiveness in this environment for sales, innovation, and executive teams.

Early Thinking:

Cliques Are Not Teams: Watch for a coterie.  Teams can become insular: not seek outside expertise or data and inappropriately elevate individual team member expertise.  Effective teams focus a significant portion of their efforts outwardly.  Outward communications are predictors of high performance teams.

Don’t Collaborate With Just Anyone: Research indicates you need to be selective, people perform better when they invest in fewer quality relationships: as opposed to building larger networks.2.  Mom was right, don’t be promiscuous; be selective and seek contrarian views to prevent insularity.

You Can’t Virtually Catch Me: Have you participated in corporate team building exercises in which you fall backwards into a team member’s arms to build trust?  Not convinced that works: my point is our default thinking is to build working relationships via face-to-face communications.  I’ve lead virtual teams and never met members face-to-face.  Team building can be done virtually, but you have to focus on it.  Find ways to have one-on-one outside team meeting discussions as one example.

Blink Analysis:

Are the right connections being made internally and externally? Do not rely solely on traditional team evaluations such as process, strong team leadership, domain expertise etc.

Watch for teams becoming social gatherings and individuals that are relationship hoarders.  Consider 1) watching for groups becoming a social gathering and not working toward the business objective 2) beware of members that prevent internal lateral communications among team members or the sales executive that is overly protective of client relationships.

  1. R. Cross, K. Ehrlich, R. Dawson, J. Helferich, “Managing Collaboration: Improving Team Effectiveness Through A Network Perspective”, California Management Review, vol. 50, no 4 (summer 2008): 74-99
  2. J. Cummings, R. Cross, “Structural Properties of Work Group and Their Consequences for Performance,” Social Networks 25/3 (2003): 197-210

Collaborators, Top Performers or Time Wasters?

Have you observed certain individuals seem to be connected to every interesting project in organizations where you’ve worked?  In the paper, The Collaborative Organization: How to Make Employee Networks Really Work the authors used organizational network analysis (ONA) software to look at collaboration in large IT organizations.

Early Thinking:

Want a raise – Collaborate:  Collaborators cited as best performers, translated to better performance reviews.  Assuming better performance reviews results in better raises – get collaborating.

Feeling tired, low job satisfaction – then interact: The organizational network is a source of energy; collaboration with high performers increases participant energy level according to the research.  Research also concluded that “the energized” had greater job satisfaction. Generalizing, I agree that extroverts would consider the social interactions energizing.  I wonder how the introverts feel.

Need innovation – context shift:  Innovation often involves migrating ideas from one context to another. 1

Collaboration is not the intent – it’s results of course: This research found the least efficient IT programmers spent twice the time collaborating, as did the average programmer.2

Blink Analysis:

The collaboration paradox: Collaboration by itself does not create more innovation or high performing teams but without it, teams don’t win either.  Using standard management techniques may encumber it too.  Leadership should be an appropriate part of the network so it functions to meet the business objectives without weighting it down.  That takes skill indeed.

  1. A.B. Hargadon, “Firms as Knowledge Brokers: Lessons in Pursuing Continuous Innovation” California Management Review, 40, no. 3 (spring 1988): 209-227.
  2. R. Cross, P. Gray, S. Cunningham, M. Showers, R. Thomas, “The Collaborative Organization: How to Make Employee Networks Really Work”, MITSloan Management Review, 52, no. 1 (fall 2010): 83-90.