Geredet wird viel von Netzwerken, doch konkrete, handhabbare Beschreibungen sind selten. Dies ist eine; sie stammt von Ram Charan, einem Management Consultant, der Unternehmen bei globalen Strategien und der Installierung von Netzwerken berät.
Nach seinem Verständnis sind Netzwerke funktionsübergreifende Teams von besonders fähigen "oberen" Managern – also etwa der zweiten / dritten Ebene. Netzwerke unterscheiden sich in drei Merkmalen von herkömmlichen Projektteams:
1. "Networks are not temporary."
2. "Networks do not merely solve problems that habe been defined for them."
3. "Networks make demands on senior management that teams or task forces do not."
Die Hauptaufgabe von CEO und Vorstand ist nicht mehr "making all substanzive operating decisions on their own. Rather, their primary job is shaping the processes and personal relationships that allow other managers, the members of the network, to make decisions." (S. 106)
Der Artikel "examines the process of building and sustaining networks in large organizations. Senior Management works as change agents to create a net 'social architecture'. Once the network is in place, they play at least three additional roles:
1. They define with clarity and specificity the business output they expect of the network and the time frame in which they expect the network to deliver." (S. 106)
Netzwerke sind also kein Substitut für klare Zielvorgaben, sondern sie sind in mehrfacher Hinsicht eine notwendige Bedingung für ihren Erfolg: "Specificity allows the members of the network to see that they are making real change and that the change is linked directly to the improved economic performance of the organization. The more visible and persuasive this evidence, the more intense the personal commitments of the members to expanding the initiative of the network. Over time, making visible progress on economic-priority items generates emotional energy and builds commitment." (S. 109)
2. "They guarantee the visibility and free flow of information to all members of the network and promote simultaneous communication (dialogue) among them." (S. 106)
Um erfolgreich zu sein, benötigen Netzwerke eine offene Informationspolitik. Geheimniskrämerei und Machtpolitik durch Informationszurückhaltung/-filterung müssen beendet werden:
"When members of the network receive the same information at the same time, and receive it quickly, business decisions take on a different character. Disagreement over substance no longer generates damaging personal conflicts or organizational politics; personal conflicts arise when information flows are selective or secret. More to the point, disagreements themselves are reduced. Most members of a network, when faced with an impartial set of facts, tend to arrive at roughly the same business options for a given set of goals." (S. 112)
Das geht über "harte" Daten hinaus: "The network must also share openly and simultaneously each member's experiences, successes, and problems, soft information that can't be captured in databases and spreadsheets and that remains hidden for as long as possible in most traditional organizations. This is the kind of sharing that builds trust, empathy, and secure relationships. It also broadens the participants. They begin to see the organization through multiple viewpoints and understand more instinctively the pressures, challenges, and capabilities of functions and business units outside their own traditional boundaries." (S. 112)
3. "They develop new criteria and processes for performance evaluation and promotions that emphasize horizontal collaboration through networks. They openly share these performance measurements with all members of the network and adjust them in response to changing circumstances." (S. 106/107)
"In most organzations, even those committed to cross-functional collaboration, reviews are still based on performance against departmental budgets or functional goals and are still conducted vertically. These traditional reviews are sharply at odds with networks. Vertical reviews encourage turf mentalities. Functional reviews promote narrow vision of the business and discourage horizontal collaboration. For a network to thrive, top management must focus on behavior and horizontal leadership: Does a manager share information open and willingly? Does he or she ask for and offer help? Is he or she emotionally committed to the business? Does the manager exercise informal leadership to energize the work of subnetworks?
Admittedly, these are difficult criteria to quantify, which is why they seldom figure into performance reviews. But in a network, they become the central measures of performance, the vital criteria for assigning increasing general management responsibility. Senior management must find ways to make these criteria precise, to demonstrate that they are the basis for rewards and promotion within the organization, and to share them among all members of the network." (S.114)
Ram Charan sieht Netzwerke auch als einen Weg, das allzu bequeme Denkmodell hinter sich zu lassen, dass das Middle Management das größte Hindernis für Veränderungsprozesse in Unternehmen sei: "Middle managers are not born defensive and narrow-minded. They learn their behavior from these above and around them. Most people want to cooperate and collaborate. They would prefer to innovate than to block. By forging a strong set of relationships and values, networks reinforce managers' best instincts – and unleash emotional energy and the joy of work." (S. 115)