Successful teams need to have the skills required to achieve a specified goal, whether that is arriving at a deadline with the work completed or achieving a wider goal which benefits the whole organisation.
Critically, team members need to trust each other in order to achieve success. They need to know how to use one another’s skillsets to the best of their abilities. An informal network can help projects gain greater momentum.
What do we mean by an informal network?
Informal networks are quite distinct from more formalised networks, as they focus more on communication than they do on the rigours of the business itself. Each individual working on a project is connected to the others. The way that your particularly business is structured will help to define this interconnected network of people.
In almost all organisations, you will find plenty of informal networks already in place. These could be strategic in nature or based on the way your employees communicate with one another, or even on the networks where big decisions are made. These people are linked by their experiences, and their expertise.
Why does it matter?
Lots of the most important conversations within a business take place informally. They are conducted via these informal networks, rather than the formalised, hierarchical ones which define the business itself.
This means that by recognising a network, you are able to then harness it and the knowledge of each person within it – ultimately boosting the productivity of all concerned. When seen through this lens, cultivating your informal networks feels more important than ever.
Break down the barriers
This is one way to help ensure that people with similar skillsets are able to communicate freely, instead of being beholden to their role within the company. Whilst a certain degree of hierarchy is to be expected, providing the room for a more informal way of communicating and looking at your employees strengths and weaknesses is also key.
A big disadvantage of encouraging informal networks, is that it could lead to more office gossip by making people think this is what you intended when you suggested they ‘get to know each other’. Managers need to be aware of this possibility and be diligent in addressing any such instances should they occur.
Cultivate informal spaces
If your workplace does not already encourage communal areas where discussion can thrive, consider doing so. This can also be achieved via company events which promote the togetherness and unity of the team, while also allowing people to get to know each other better.
Assess and reassess
If you notice your team is more relaxed and cohesive, then you can safely assume that your existing strategy is working well. However, be sure to reassess and evaluate each decision you make along the way. This is a fantastic way to keep up to date on how best to harness your informal networks in the office.
Also published on Medium.