Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Your Organization's Digital Communication Network: An Archive of Film Footage about Organizational Performance

Thanks a lot to Ken Riopelle for providing this guest post

I believe we are all familiar with sports film. We see sports film highlights everywhere. On the TV, on our phones, tablets, and computers. We hear commentators referring to coaches and their teams reviewing and studying game film as a routine process for game preparation and also for self and team improvement.

Why do sports teams, coaches and players look at game films?

The answer is quite simple. People use game films to slow down and freeze frame the field of action and analyze the play at key moments in time. It allows everyone to pause, reflect, and discuss what happened. The benefit is simple, the more we understand the patterns of our behavior, the better prepared we are to make a change when needed.

But business is played 24/7/365 all over planet earth. In global networked organizations, business interactions are largely unseen and hidden from view, except that we might notice that everyone is preoccupied with one or more digital screens of various sizes.

One way to create a film of our business interactions among our teams, suppliers, and partners is to use our email  exchanges. Email's five standardized message elements of "To, From, Date, Subject and Message Content" makes it possible to create a "communication film." Computer software, such as Condor, can replay a single person's communication or a team's, an entire department's, or even an entire enterprise's message exchanges.

Of course, email is just one type of communication channel. Business does rely on other communication channels, such as face-to-face, text, telephone, chat, etc.  Nevertheless, research has shown that email is a good surrogate to represent your business relations.

Competitive sports teams and players review and study the patterns of their opponents and their own behavior using game films. We as spectators have come to expect the instant replay for close official calls and spectacular plays.

Just as sports teams do, in business, we too can observe, study, and reflect on our communication behavior. This can help us to spot strong and weak areas of our performance and develop ways to become better at what we do.

I invite you to create a film of your email communication. How does your communication network look and behave around your calendar of events, deadlines and milestones?  What patterns do you see? What happens if you remove yourself from the network? Who keeps it together?  Or, does it fall apart?

Using a movie of your email network may seem very new as a way to examine the patterns of communication that you, your team, your department, or even your enterprise exhibits. However, networked communication has been and is being studied across many academic disciplines including anthropology, sociology, physics, mathematics, computer science, communication, and now in business under the phrase, "social network analysis" or the study of human relations.

In summary, your email archive represents a hidden canister of film  ready to be played. You can slow down, freeze frame, zoom-in and zoom-out on the film to examine, measure and reflect to improve communication behavior and collaboration with scalability to the enterprise level and all levels in between.


Download Condor, the desktop software to create and play your email communication film archive

Sports and Network Language 

Of course, there is a wide variety of different kinds of sports.  There are team sports, such as soccer, basketball, and ice hockey as well as individual sports, such as golf, boxing, and swimming to mention just a few.  We know that each  sport has its own language and metrics to judge and evaluate a play. The same is true for social network analysis.  It, too, has a unique vocabulary and set of measures. Now, for sports that we are familiar with or have played, we have learned that language of that sport with little or no effort since grade school, and that learning is constantly reinforced in the media and often in our daily conversations.

In contrast, it is rare to have grown up learning the language and measures of social network analysis. Therefore,  it will take some time and effort to learn some new vocabulary and measures. The good news is that you are part of your networks and know most, if not all of the players. You also know the local situation around a particular communication exchange and can act like a sports commentator and describe in detail what was happening during the exchange and with what result. Although we may not have learned a formal network vocabulary and the mathematics behind its measures, we do have an intuitive feel for how social relations work because they always have been  part of our lives.

So, to get you started on learning some social network language and measures watch this short video: