One of the seven concepts Manuel Castells introduces as a significant consequence of the emergence of networks that integrate communication and information is the impact it has on rigid vertical bureaucracies. Could there be an end to the corporate ladder and organizations based on silos and top-down command-and-control cultures?
Transitioning from ladders to networks is certainly a dynamic cultural undertaking that is impacted by generational challenges and resistance. There’s been some significant research exploring organizational networks by mapping relationships and tracking interaction.
Those who climb corporate ladders – such as experienced managers and leaders – will have a tough time embracing organic and unpredictable network approaches to organization, especially when they’re on top. If it’s not broke, why fix it, right? The biggest objection might be concern regarding accountability. Who gets promoted when someone succeeds? Who gets sacked when someone fails? Those issues will need to be addressed and somehow resolved when persuading such a dynamic conversion.
While the impact of networks can be graphically communicated, results will need to be illustrated as well. Embracing networking should be positioned as a way to generate innovation within an organization. Change agents will need an understanding of the benefits of allowing diverse talent and resources to collaborate outside their traditional silos and how it will create relationships that go beyond maintenance mode.
As Castells points out, networks constantly reconfigure themselves as a response strategy in order to resolve issues or develop innovation. The constant change disrupts traditional organization and challenges the existing corporate culture – especially when leaders see for themselves that their value might be in question.
Skeptics resistant to a network approach to their organization’s structure need to understand their role in terms that integrate traditional concepts of the corporate culture they have embraced. Their value needs to be clearly defined and illustrated as well as the impact of driving innovation.
In order to inspire leaders to embrace such bold approaches, it should be clear that there’s an emotional investment needed to make the switch – trust. Accountability was mentioned earlier as being a major cause for concern. When a considerable amount of control and power -- as well as accountability -- shifts to networks, trust must be factored into the system.
Perhaps in a network-driven culture, accountability means dissolving teams and restricting networks rather than eliminating and replacing talented and experienced resources as a reaction to failure. It should also be pointed out that success doesn't always deliver promotions since the silo approach requires acquisition of new resource, which means effort and possible risk.