Net-Map – Agile – Organizational Change

This is not the kind of Agile I'm talking about (picture by Double--M on flickr)

Last week I worked with an Agile coach who helps large organizations to move their software development from traditional waterfall programming to adopting agile approaches. What does that mean? Well, waterfall programming means you start out by telling the programmers what you need, then they go and program for a few (or more than a few) months and finally come back with a program for you to use. Now you can see whether you actually knew what you wanted in the beginning and whether the finished product fits. In an agile approach the programming cycles are shortened to weeks and at the end of each iteration stands a good enough product that you can start using and trying out, giving feedback to the programmers so that they can go back to tweak, adjust and make it fit.

One of the great and scary things about becoming agile is that it doesn’t just mean using a different kind of product in the end. But that it means significantly changing processes, power and incentives within the organization. So introducing agile is not just a technical switch but actually an organizational change effort. And this is why my colleague proposed that we Net-Map it.

So at the beginning of a 1 1/2 year project he has just started we met with the three leading managers who oversee the agile implementation for this international corporation. And asked them the simple and difficult question: Who are all the actors who will influence the success of the project (positively or negatively)?

What did we find out? Well, my colleague now has a list of people he wants to invite to the first planning round. And within this list, he knows of a few people who need special attention, e.g.:

  • The social integrator, that everyone feels comfortable going to with new ideas or the need for feedback.
  • Some actors from neighboring domains who fear that their influence might be diminished by the implementation of agile.
  • The strongest driver of the process in the leadership team.

He has more clarity about the drivers that motivate the different people involved and their priorities, especially when it comes to the question: “Is it more important to get stuff done and show results fast or to implement and document processes that others can follow in the future?”

Also, mapping out the whole situation provided a great opportunity to dig deeper into the history of this project, the divisions and people involved and how their past experience with each other might influence their ability and willingness to work together on this project. This specifically is an area where external consultants can easily step on landmines from conflicts they didn’t even know existed…

And finally, working with the project leaders on this and giving them the space to draw a map of their views and experiences, allowing for disagreement and exploration as well as finding a shared core, was a great way of laying the ground work for a longer process of collaboration, getting to know each other better, seeing what their priorities and worries are and reassuring them that we have heard.

From tweet to action: Who moves social movements on twitter?

People (boxes) who tweet and core words (bubbles) they use

The fact that today’s social movements, from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, rely so heavily on twitter and similar communication tools, pose an amazing chance for researchers and other curious people who want to understand who moves these movements. The other day I discussed with a friend what kind of networks you want to look at to better understand this and I’d propose three different kinds: People networks, semantic networks and two-mode people/semantic networks.

People networks are the easy intuitive ones: Who follows whom? Who re-tweets whom? Looking at this will help you understand who the leaders, boundary spanners, broad-casters are.  Most likely, for an issue that manages the step from tweet to action successfully, you will look at a core-periphery structure, with a small inter-connected core (who might also communicate regularly outside of twitter) and a large periphery of followers, who are less inter-connected but look at the core for calls to action and thought leadership. Over time, different clusters might pop up as their own sub-cores or even take over from those initially starting the debate.

Semantic networks look at which words appear together in the same document (a document could be a single tweet, a string, all tweets from one person, whichever works). This can tell you something about the discourse around your issue: Is it just one large well connected issue or are there different schools of thought (more moderate and more radical for example or more philosophical versus more pragmatic and logistics oriented)? You might see that things evolve over time, for example it might be that the movement starts out united behind one cause (“Let’s overthrow the government!”) and after that is achieved, the debate disintegrates in many different camps (moderate and radical islamists, market oriented democrats, socialists etc.).

And to really understand how this development of the debate and the connections between the tweeters hang together, you want to look at two-mode networks. But I have to warn you, they are the least intuitive. In a two mode-network you look at two different categories of things, for example people and words and how they connect to each other. So, there are no direct links within one category (no people-to-people links or word-to-word links). This picture shows you: Who uses which words? Who is connected by being part of the same discourse (even if they have no direct link to each other)?

By looking at all three of these together, you can see who the leaders are, what their role (content) in the movement is and how that develops over time. And if you can compare either different incidents or different points in time, you will learn something about the network structures that are best suited to lead from tweet to action.

Discovering hidden influencers that make or break project success

Beyond the org. chart: Conflict and personal friendships influencing innovation

“It’s time to re-invent management. You can help!”

That’s how the Management Innovation Challenge is introduced on their website, and I though: “Well, if you think so, I’ll help…” So together with my colleague Michael Lennon I contributed a Hack that describes how you can use Net-Map as an easy and approachable tool to discover hidden influencers.  How do you teach people on all levels of an organization how to effectively navigate the “people aspect” of achieving your goals?

If you are a regular reader (or even fan???) of this blog, you know what I’m talking about. If not, it’s a rather brief read. But whether new to Net-Map or experienced Net-Mapper yourself, head over to

Look at what we have to say and give us some love by rating our hack and commenting on it.

Oh, and beyond this shameless self-promotion I’d also recommend you go there and read what everybody has to say. Some amazing contributions, all bundled under such inspiring moon shots as:

  • Humanize the language of business
  • Capture the advantage of diversity
  • Make direction setting bottom-up and outside-in
  • Build natural, flexible hierarchies.