Organizational Network Analysis – Change Management CoP

Feb 8, 2019Insights

Loft9 Change Management Consultants recently gathered for a Community of Practice (CoP) to explore creative ways of applying Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) on client projects. The CoP looked at specific case studies and examples of how the technique can add value to new and current projects. Among the topics examined were ways to use ONA to understand the “hidden organization” to enhance organizational effectiveness, and approaches for applying ONA in Change Management.

Why should we use Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to enhance organizational effectiveness and facilitate organizational changes?

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is a structured way of mapping the informal connections of individuals in an organization, informal communication channels and the relationships that traverse the organizational chart. By understanding these informal connections and information flows in an organization – the influencers, brokers, hubs and outliers – powerful dynamics can inform organization structure & process work, talent & leadership development, diversity & inclusion, engagement & retention, and change efforts. Change Managers can especially benefit and be more effective in their approach for achieving employee buy-in for initiatives, through the unearthing of change influencers.

The Power of Organizational Network Analysis

Organizational Network Analysis gives leaders a visual view into the inner workings of their teams and businesses. Beyond the formal organizational structures, manager hierarchies, and designed information flows, it instead shows how things “really get done.”

  • Who do people go to most to help them accomplish their jobs?
  • Who helps people navigate the organization or connect to company strategy?
  • Who are the go-to people for social or career development support?
  • Who are the connectors between teams and organizations?
  • Who may be disconnected?

These targeted views then enable leaders to take meaningful action to support organizational effectiveness: identify emerging leaders, find influencers to advocate for change efforts, leverage connectors to break down business, or team, silos, and flag information holes or disconnected team members who may be experiencing exclusion or becoming retention risks.

ONA offers you a new view, like your 3-d glasses at the movies, that enables you to consider both formal and informal structures, networks, and information flows for data-driven, enhanced people and organizational effectiveness and engagement

How ONA Can Support Change Management

Change Managers can especially benefit from Organizational Network Analysis, allowing them to use both formal and informal communication channels and relationships in their change initiatives. ONA can expose the most efficient paths for change messaging and find people with the greatest influence in an organization. By first getting buy-in from the people who have the greatest influence in the organizational network it is easier to get others onboard.

Simple Steps to Apply ONA to Your Change Management Efforts Today

Change Management initiatives can use Organizational Network Analysis to target change efforts to areas of greatest affect. This can be through a formal project where an ONA mapping tool is used, an informal project where ONA principles and questions are integrated into traditional engagement activities, or a combination.

For example, a traditional organizational effectiveness assessment project with interviews and a survey, can be augmented with a formal ONA mapping component.

Similarly, if there is not time or budget for formal ONA during a change project, targeted connector and influencer questions can be added to current surveys and input channels to uncover influencers in a more informal way.

A simple framework for conducting an Organizational Network Analysis for a change management effort is as follows.


1 – Define goals, scope and group to explore

As part of a larger change initiative the scope of the ONA may be the key stakeholders in the project plan. It is important that the members of the examined group span across normal organizational barriers, such as rank, department, geography, and demographic.

Having a diverse group serves to capture the informal ties that are valuable in organizational change.

Clarify what is most important to understand and create targeted questions, such as connectors, passionate advocates for the change, and influencers. ONA is most impactful when the questions are low on quantity and high on relevance.


2 – Capture and evaluate relationships

The team can discover important relationships through direct interviews, digital surveys, and/or specific ONA mapping tools.

Whatever channel used, targeted questions are defined based on the goals and scope of the effort, and focused on the individual’s sources for organizational information, advice, and collaboration.

Once data is collected, the team evaluates and analyzes the information and summarizes insights and applications.

ONA is most often reflected through network diagrams with individuals in the organization represented as nodes and relationships represented as spokes connecting those nodes, also called sociograms.

ONA Visual Socilyzer Generic

A 2013 article, by Cross, Ernst and Pasmore, defined some of the relationships that are most valuable in an ONA for Change Management.

  • Connector
    Connectors are people who help their colleagues in many informal ways. They connect a team and supply opinions and advice that are valued by the organization, even in areas outside of their formal role.
  • Expert
    Experts are a source of knowledge and experience in the organization. They are a clarifying force that supply guidance and direction when needed.
  • Broker
    A broker connects many unrelated parts of the organization and has ties both internally and externally. With their visibility into several groups, brokers can help change efforts by creating balance and mutual understanding.
  • Energizer
    Energizers create optimism and energy helping people confront change. Energizers are evangelists and a key to overcoming the natural resistance to change.
  • Resister
    Resisters are those that are not critical of the change effort. If a Resister is influential in the organization, it can stall or undermine the change effort. These people need to be brought onboard quickly.

3 – Create and iterate customized change management plans

The team can then define or refresh change management plans to use the roles discovered in the ONA for tailoring communications and targeting resistance. As appropriate, informal leaders and influencers can be asked to aid the change effort in specific ways, and even take on formal roles within the change team.

  • Connectors can facilitate communications.
  • Energizers can evangelize on behalf of the effort.
  • Experts can supply input and feedback on the recommended changes.
  • Brokers ensure inter-departmental alignment and can identify gaps.

Finally, the Change Team can give Resisters extra attention, nurturing, and opportunities for input that may serve to convert them to change proponents.

Community of Practice Meeting Result

The Loft9 Community of Practice meeting was full of insights and provided Associates with an innovative service offering for their clients.

There were several discussions after the event about best practices in applying Organizational Network Analysis for specific client needs and “aha’s” regarding the application of the theories discussed.

After each meeting Loft9 Associates come away with a variety of ideas for the application of the tools discussed and how they can deliver greater value.

Our last Change Management CoP offered by Kimberly Bell brought to the table a mind-blowing business tool called ONA (Organization Network Analysis), a resource that surveys and maps how employees connect to each other. The outcome possibilities this tool offers are numerous, and the data findings are very thoughtful. During our discussions, Kimberly shared her experience using the tool with clients and we had an opportunity not only to learn about it, but to discuss how it could be used to generate value to our portfolio. For me, the CoPs have shown to be an incredible opportunity to share experiences, learn and develop skills, and I am very grateful for the generosity of our Loft9rs who take their time to collaborate for our continuous growth.

Denise Regis Maya, Loft9 Consultant

What are the Loft9 CoP’s?

A cornerstone in Loft9’s culture of life-long learning are the Loft9 Communities of Practice (CoP).

There are CoP’s that represent each of Loft9’s service lines:

Loft9 Consultants from each of these communities meet regularly – outside of billable hours – to discuss developments in their area of focus and learn new techniques that can be used to benefit their clients.
If you have a business problem that you think could benefit from the application of Organizational Network Analysis and are interested in finding out more about how Loft9 can help, please contact us.