Archiv der Kategorie: Management

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ProCons of networks

Increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) can no longer be mastered with the rigid structures of the past. Collaboration takes place across borders, wherever you look. The related structures are constantly changing and subsist on self-organizing actors who build, use and eventually resolve the necessary relationships. The result is a more or less dense network. Aside from today’s needs, where everything is just one click away, there are some arguments in favor of and against the use of networks.

The following ProCons affect not only networks but all types of communities.

Pros

The benefits cover more than just the economic interests of the companies.

  • Competence advantages
    The network draws its strength from the purposeful connection of resources and capabilities. The participants‘ intrinsic motivation provides the network with a long-term advantage ahead of other forms, which on the one hand require a lot of setup time and on the other hand never have comparable access to this amount of competencies.
  • Information advantages
    The actors provide a lot of information. This includes experience and knowledge about different markets, customers, products, technologies and, above all, business processes. By sharing this information (push vs. pull), they reach all network participants at a relatively high speed.
  • Resource advantages
    The actors already provide a variety of resources – material and immaterial goods and especially people. Contrary to other forms of organization, the network offers an adjustable openness that makes it possible to expand resources faster. Just the use of these resources of the actors provide means that otherwise would have to be procured with much effort. In addition, this tool is usually better suited that is brought by the craftsman.
  • Social advantages
    Getting to know like-minded people is a huge advantage for the actors. The sense of community offers an environment in which you can expect more pleasant working conditions and a trustworthy cooperation due to the same interests.
  • Economic advantages
    Looking at the entire network, there are many savings for the company. Cost advantages arise when the actors already bring additionally to their commitment many resources that do not need to be purchased. The combined competence accelerates the business and reduces the risks. Practicing self-organization in a network avoids delays caused by a hierarchical structure with its long decision-making and communication paths.

Cons

Against networks speak especially apparent extra efforts, unpredictability and the difficult control.

  • Time
    Even with all the advantages, networking requires active involvement of its members. The open procedures and the lack of centralized control require other efforts of the participants, which are perceived at first glance as additional expenses. However, much higher overall savings can be made for the company.
  • Redundancies
    Even with a lot of engagement in disseminating information, there can be more double work in the self-organized network than in a tayloristic organization. The lack of control can lead to a competition for the best idea that would be wasteful.
  • Increased communication effort
    The multiplicity of actors increases the coordination effort, which can even not be avoided with agile approaches. New insights and experiences simply have to be shared, absorbed and processed. This effort is the price for a lot of advantages.
  • Cooperation issues
    Of course, because of the variety of characters, there will not only be sympathy, but also antipathies that can burden collaboration and trust and eventually lead to an increased need for mediation. This makes team building an important exercise.
  • Lack of control
    A strong driver for the formation of a network is the intrinsic appeal for each participant. Leadership could quickly disturb. At the same time, a network also needs a direction. Without centralized control, the network might take longer to reach an agreement.
  • Information loss
    The open structure of a network and the frequent participation of individual members in different networks automatically lead to the leakage of information. Lack of secrecy could endanger the network.

Bottom line: Although many aspects speak against creation and participation in a network, you have to face the fact that a VUCA world creates new conditions that function in a way that cannot be covered by traditional approaches. The competence, information, resource social, and economic advantages are arguments for the use of networks. At the same time, appropriate measures have to minimize the risks.

Properties of a network

The boundaries of companies dissolve in favor of cross-border networks. Actors and relationships, interests and data, expectations and information, business models and knowledge find their way on the Internet. Joining an online community can make the difference for individuals and groups. Whether private or business – it is helpful to know the new realities, the properties of a network.

The effects of the net can be better exploited, if you know its characteristics.

  • Size
    The number of actors/nodes amount to the size of the network. The more participants, the greater the benefit of the network. Additional offers, which exceed the actual purpose, expand the scope of application. A historical example illustrates the importance of size: the more people with a telephone, the more people can be reached, the more people have a telephone and the more services (e.g. information, routing, wake-up calls, telephone counseling) can be marketed. Based on the Dunbar number, the natural limit of social relationships is 150 persons, between 100 and 250. Based on the average number of Facebook friends per user of over 300 (between 250 and 500) you can presume that in the social networks of the Internet the Dunbar number doubles.
  • Density
    The actors become interconnected with one another to a more or less close meshed network. The number of actual relationships between the actors/nodes together with the possible number of connections determine the density of meshing. If the resulting connectivity is very dense, the network has a great impact on each individual. Loose attachment appears in the lack of social relationships and subsequently with frustration as well as isolation. The density can be represented by the number of relationships in respect to the possible relationships – e.g. a network of 8 people has (8-1) * (8/2) = 28 possible relationships; in this example all people are centrally only linked to one person, but not to each other, resulting in 7 relationships; this corresponds to a density of 0.25.
  • Openness
    The relationships that get out of the network determine the degree of openness. Prerequisite is the definition of the network boundaries. In companies, they are today much more permeable due to partnerships, joint ventures and outsourcing. The project relationships lead to frequent changes of the network members. The openness results from the number of external relationships in respect to the possible relationships. They are double-edged. On the one hand, a network gains new ideas and members through openness. On the other hand, experiences and insights unintentionally flow out of the network, and people get the opportunity to exert undesirable influence through openness.
  • Perseverance
    Networks have a certain life of their own because of the large number of actors. Perseverance describes the degree of stability. It results from the increase of members and relationships, the changing degree of formal structure, and the general direction, i.e. growth, consolidation or shrinkage of the network Too much change endangers the perseverance and results in the formation of new networks or internal group building.
  • Speed
    The time it takes to bring insights to all nodes defines the speed. This information flows through the relationships. With respective channels, actors can communicate in different ways, such as email, intranet, or by exchanging ideas. The distribution can take place by pull or push principle. The pull principle is based on information needs – knowledge is obligation to search; trigger is the target audience; mostly bottom-up. The push principle is aligned to the needs for informing – knowledge is an obligation to deliver; triggers are the information sources; mostly top-down. Built-in feedback, such as receipt confirmation or collection of comments, allow assumptions about the speed.

Bottom line: The network is the most likely organizational format in times of VUCA. The membership benefits are determined primarily by the number of users. Other characteristics are the density, openness, perseverance and the speed of the information flow. Although the network properties allow a better control, it is still necessary to continuously observe and evaluate the network due to the self-organizing members.