Thought Leadership Essays

Networks Eat Strategy for Breakfast…Everyday

December 23, 2011

Vikas Narula

The new year is here and businesses everywhere are in the process of developing, refining or finalizing their strategies for 2012.  That said, how many organizations are taking a close, in-depth look at their culture as a basis for driving strategy?

Peter Drucker (management science pioneer and guru) has said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday”.

A great example of this is the following (brilliant) depiction of corporate “org charts” for major tech companies, by Manu Cornet.  It went viral earlier this year and perhaps you have already seen it.  Either way, it is worth another look:

I think Manu Cornet’s illustrations resonate with so many of us because they are a simple, humorous, yet honest portrayal of how the fabric of human relationships (and the differences, nuances thereof) = culture.

While companies look to their org charts as pathways for executing on strategy, our intuition and experience tells us there are informal channels and relationships that largely dictate how work really gets done. Each company’s “networks” are different and unique. They can be quite independent of hierarchy and form the basis for culture.

Following are network maps for two organizations we have worked with.  On the top is a view of the informal knowledge network – who people rely on to get their work done. The view on the bottom is that same network overlaid on the organizations formal org chart – real world, self-reported examples of Manu’s profound insight.

What does this tell you about the corporate culture of these two organizations? Do they resemble any of the major tech companies?  Does it help inform how a leader ought to approach change, strategy and / or communication?

Understanding informal networks enables leaders to align the organization (not the org chart) with its strategic direction and move more quickly and effectively. Once you get the culture, you can execute on strategy with greater ease and efficiency.

Do you know what your network culture looks like?  If not, it might be eating strategy for breakfast…everyday.

Vikas Narula (@NarulaTweets) is Creator and Co-Founder of Keyhubs (@Keyhubs) – a software and services company specializing in workplace social analytics. He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest – a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to kids every Earth Day.


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