March 24, 2021
Who are your teams REALLY paying attention to? Today, CEOs know ZERO about the cost of internal networks, but data analysis can bring order to chaos.
Attention. Everyone wants some. Sales wants it from Customer Service, Human Resources wants it from Management, the Data team wants it from the Product team. But do you know who your teams are really paying attention to? Who do your teams collaborate with most often? How much time does the collaboration take? It troubles me how little CEOs know about their employees’ organizational networks, because it’s the most critical thing a company should analyze after their revenue. Not convinced this should be your priority? Read on….
Veteran journalist and prior New York Times contributor Dinah Spritzer interviewed Time is Ltd. CEO Jan Rezab in the second of our series on analytics and the Future of Work:
Dinah Spritzer: Organizational network analytics. The phrase doesn’t exactly roll off …
Jan Rezab: To give you a practical example, when I led Socialbakers I looked at the percentage of time people worked internally versus externally. Just that basic composition shocked me.
DS: What was shocking?
JR: Only 40 to 50 percent of the sales team’s meeting time was external. Sixty percent of time spent on internal meetings seemed like too much overhead. Little did I know that after analyzing tens of thousands of other companies, the breakdown of a sales team's time is typically 80 percent internal, 20 percent external. But since companies don’t usually know these numbers, they don’t ask, why is this happening?
DS: What do you gain from knowing the answer?
JR: At Socialbakers, the answer was marketing. Marketing wanted time from sales and held meetings with 20 people here, then 60 there. And I don't think people realize that when they do a meeting with 60 people, that consumes 60 hours.
DS: But marketing and sales are inseparable, so why interfere?
JR: We made sure that if marketing took the time, it was the right amount of time and with the right people. If you need to brief people on a new campaign, great, but don't do it segment by segment. Bring everyone in the room, 20 minutes, boom, done. You don’t need a brainstorming session if you are trying to brief people.
DS: Maybe that experience was unique to you? Doesn’t the C-suite at a big company generally know how much time people spend meeting?
JR: They don’t understand what percentage of their teams’ time goes to intra-department communication versus cross-team communication. CEOs know very little about the percentage of time their employees spend communicating. Shouldn't we create a modern day punch card so we can optimize how we work?
DS: You mean monitoring employees?
JR: Absolutely not. You can understand how people work by aggregating communication data at a team level, anonymously. And if you have a team of 25 people, and 23 of them are communicating in a way you don’t like, that’s not an issue of individuals. It’s an issue of how they are trained, how they are told to work, and how they are onboarded.
DS: So organizational networks drive performance?
JR: We talked about onboarding in the last newsletter, and about how important it is for a person to build a network. But what if they don't? You won’t get any new ideas from these employees. You won't get cross-team collaboration and you’ll create a super siloed company.
DS: That’s about individual employees. What aspect of network organization is most important to measure for teams?
JR: Nearly every company does a reorganization at some point. So let’s say as part of the reorg, I get pulled into a new team of 10 people. I'll still meet my former colleagues for lunches or a quick meeting. They'll be in my calendar. The network of people I collaborate with will appear the same. But the reality is different if you go deeper. Our data scientists put together a unique metric for attention. This allows us to calculate the actual amount of time team members allocate to the new network versus the old.
What’s unique about Time is Ltd.’s attention metric?
If two people are attending a meeting, it doesn't mean they are having a meaningful work relationship. Our attention metric captures the discrepancy between large meetings versus 1:1s or small meetings. By analyzing a company’s meeting data with this metric, as well as frequency, we gain a more accurate understanding of collaborative patterns.
DS: Why is it bad for people to hang out with their former team?
JR: That’s not the issue. We analyzed an agile transformation for a major bank with more than 10,000 employees. And the reason you want to know about attention -- the percentage of time an employee is giving to which team, and which network of people -- is because it can tell you whether the agile transformation is working. With the bank, by measuring attention, we saw that it was taking longer than expected for teams to adapt to the new structure.
DS: Let’s get back to basics. What’s the one critical question every CEO should ask about their organizational network?
JR: How is your company time structured?
DS: And the best way to measure that is?
JR: There are tools that companies already use that look like a spiderweb org chart. But we approach it in a different way, again, on an aggregated team basis. We have something called Sociomapping software. Teams are positioned on a geographical map that shows their mutual interactions and the frequency of these interactions. The map changes over time, like a tectonic plate shifting. You can use the Sociomap to visualize how connected people are, from the perspective of meetings, emails, Slack, or any other communication tools you use. And you will see important patterns, immediately.
DS: Such as?
JR: We had a client see that two teams were so close based on their interactions on the Sociomap; they were on top of each other. The client realized that there was doubled management, doubled overhead, etc. So they merged those teams.
DS: So that’s the return on investment?
JR: Looking at these metrics can make your teams not 20 percent more efficient or 30 percent more efficient, but 50 percent more efficient.
Time is Ltd.’s meeting network graph indicates the number of intra-team meetings, inter-team meetings and external meetings. This example provides insight into a healthy level of cross-department communication. The Sociomap reveals the extent of meetings and electronic communication between departments. This example shows that management stepped in during the pandemic to ensure that all teams stayed aligned in their mission.
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