How can we make this less boring?

10-22-09_1338 Today I met with Natalie Campbell, who works for Management Sciences for Health and was really interested in how to best map out the relationships between their communications group and the rest of the organization. If we start with the picture of a traditional communications group, which mainly serves as a hub in a hub-and-spoke network, we get this rather straightforward (did I hear anyone say boring?) map.

It shows how it is supposed to be, the formal and expected lines, the communication group gives information to every other department. But even in a situation like this, there is much more to this story than just a factory assembly line. So how can we tell a more interesting story about this knowledge distribution unit?

How about this:

10-22-09_1342 Look at how well the communication goes and use normal lines for so-so, thick lines for excellent and dotted lines for really bad.

The next thing you might realize is this:

10-22-09_1345 You communicate about different things with different people. In this case the red lines are communication about events and the black lines are communication about tools. As you can see, with some departments you communicate about both, sometimes you might have, for example, very strong communication about tools and very meager communication about events or the other way round.

But what does it mean, when you say THE DEPARTMENT communicates? Right, it means that Peter, Paul and Mary, your staff members, communicate, and each of them might be involved in their own specific way.

10-22-09_1350 And by looking at their different roles and how they interact with each other and the rest of the organization, you might learn a lot about the specific strengths and weaknesses you are facing.

As you can see, the department is here represented by a circle with the staff members as individual actor cards and links are drawn

  • within the department between communication staff
  • between individual communication staff and other departments and
  • between the communication department as a whole and other departments.

But maybe it’s not enough to just see how strongly different actors communicate. You want to know more about how and why:

10-22-09_1353 So you add explanations to the links, so that just when you look at the picture you can see what the major story lines are: Is the communication between two departments weak because of a fight or because they don’t need to communicate much to fulfill their roles? Is there intense communication with another department because of a personal friendship, because of a specific event they plan together etc.?

And finally, after getting a more detailed map of the status quo, let’s talk about your vision:

10-23-09_0934Do you want to continue with this hub and spoke model of a network? Or would you prefer the departments to communicate more with each other? Are their other issues (colors of lines) that you want to communicate about? Are there some weak links that you would like to strengthen? Who within your department or from the other departments could help you there? What is a good strategy to get from the situation as is to this vision of a denser, less centralized network?

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