Questions to Verna Allee on how to start a Value Networks analysis
This week I attended a (tel. conf.) presentation by Verna Allee on Value Networks. I then sent her 3 questions (in blue) and here are her answers below:
Can a VN approach be used to initiate a cultural change in an organizational context where hierarchy is prominent, departmental boundaries are strong and guarded and knowledge tends to be protected rather than shared? Or is it an approach only effective when the value of collaboration and knowledge-sharing is already recognized?
Absolutely it can be helpful in culture change. Value network analysis (VNA) zeros in on the most mission critical and essential intangible exchanges that support the work. This is not just "nice to do" stuff and it is not some vague encouragment to "share your knowledge." What people spell out, through conversations, are the specific deliverables and behaviors that they need and expect from each other in order to work effectively and build good relationshps. "Knowledge" is not a deliverable - it is an asset - but you must convert that asset to some negotiable form of value in order to put it into play to create value. You extend your knowledge in very specific forms: a report, professional advice, market intelligence, referrals, etc. VNA forces people to negotiate around intangibles such as various forms of knowledge in a very clear,specific direct way. Forget "knowledge sharing" - that doesn't meananything. "Timely input of market intelligence," is a specific knowledge output that can be delivered, can have performancestandards, and that someone can be held accountable for. The very process of this negotiation "loosens up" the knowledge flows because there is an intuitive sense of fairness and reciprocity that kicks inonce people talk about knowledge sharing in this way. It is a very interesting dynamic. You aren't beating on this big concept of "culture" but are focusing on the very specific behaviors that are essential for people to successfully work together. Making those "visible" in this way is very powerful, not only for affirming how important they are but also for making it much more likely thatthey will happen. For more tips on naming intangibles see ValueNetwork Mapping Tips at http://www.value-networks.com/howToGuides/ValueNetworkMappingTips.pdf
2."What is the most effective method for collecting the informationneeded to build a VN diagram? Is it assumed that a relatively highproportion of subjectivity will be captured?"
There are two different approaches for different purposes. If you are using VNA as a collaborative sense making tool then facilitating the mapping as a group process is absolutely the way to go. You WANT the subjective nature of value to become clear to the group - this is a major "ah ha" and learning that can help a group of people dramatically reframe what they are doing and start thinking about value in a whole new way. It also is a beautiful way to surface unspoken expectations and the "mental models" of how people are really thinking it all works and about different issues. I have used it this way for years with great success. In this case most of what people need to discover happens in the mapping process, not in the deeper analytics.
In other cases you absolutely do not want the value network analysis to be skewed by subjective input - and you will want to run the more advanced analytics in order to see patterns and opportunities. This is especially true when you are doing something like a market space analysis or a large scale analysis like we are doing for the European Commission. There we are evaluating innovation networks across all 255 regions and 25 nation states. We now have the technical capability to use real corporate data sets to generate the value network visualization. For example we took a month of call data for all the calls handled by Cisco's Customer Interaction Network and used the data to generate the value network visualization. These kinds of data sets can be coded for tangible and intangible exchanges and the "real" network patterns are revealed. In the case of the European Commission we have identified 4 network archetypes within these large scale innovation networks depending on the real purpose of the network. In some cases the stated intent ofthe funded project was to do one thing, but the data shows that they actually created something different. Very interesting. The application I am referring to is the open source GenIsis application developed by my brilliant colleague Oliver Schwabe. The open source version uses an Excel-based workbook to capture and organize the data. If you are interested in the enterprise level database version you will need to contact me off-line, but the open resource version is readily available and you can learn about it, and download it. Some of you may also be interested in the value network data model that is being supported by the Value Networks Consortium, which is sponsored by companies like Cisco and is leading standards and open source tools for value network analysis. http://www.vncluster.com . Value network language and models are popping up everywhere and someof it is very good work, but there is also a lot of "junk" or old wine in new bottles masquerading as value network analysis. The consortium is a good way to stay grounded in the quality work and avoid some of the pitfalls.
3. "What is the typical scale and scope of the very first "proof> of concept" VN implementation for an organization? Scale meaning> how large is the section of the organization to consider. Scope> meaning how many processes to consider.
Where do we start? I suggest you start by focusing on a particular activity where you can easily identify somewhere between 4-8 roles that are required for that activity. The Mapping tips above have some tips on scope, scale and boundaries and there are other tip sheets in the How To Guides at http://www.value-networks.com/ . They are designed to address FAQs such as this one. That said, I just want to share that at the beginning of a workshop in the Netherlands a clearly skeptical partipant asked, "I want to know where I would actually use something like this." At the end of the day he said, "I get it - you use it with whatever is on the table." You can use VNA at virtually every level from shop floor (example Mayo Clinic looking at how to reduce scheduling time for a procedure) to business unit level (exampel AT&T getting ready for a product launch) to business webs (the eBay value network) or at the macro economic level as we already mentioned. Youdo need to decide what level you want to look at - ground floor, rooftop, helicopter, jetliner or satellite and not mix your level. Doread the "how to guides," sit down with a couple of friendlies and try it out. It doesn't do any good to just read about it - just do it. One of our practitioners suggests that people start by simply mapping their own most important role and their everyday key interactions. There are also a number of case studies on the http://www.value-networks.com/ site that will give you a good sampling of how people are using it. The community goal for that site is to really give people an on-ramp to learn all the trade secrets to the method and provide enough tools and examples that they can get started. Hope this is helpful. I am glad you enjoyed the presentation and encourage you to jump in and get your feet wet. Like anything there is a learning curve but it can be a very fast track to some good results. An executive with Openwave came to one three hour workshop on VNA, went back home and completely reorganized a company of three thousand people over the next two months using the method. He said it was the smoothest reorg they ever had with zero productivity loss the entire time. There is a slide deck on that in the case studies tab on the resource site, too. I appreciate that you asked your questions in a forum as they really are FAQs and this gets the word out to more people on where to find the support. Oh, yes, I always forget to mention we do have a commercial "deep dive" ValueNet Works Practitioner Qualification for a fee. You can learn about that at http://www.alleevaluenetworks.com/ . You can tell I am a maniac on a mission because most of the time I forget to even mention the commercial offerings, but I have a cat (insert dog, child, partner) to feed just like everyone else. Our qualified practitioner community stretches literally from Iceland to Tasmania and lucky for you Peter there is a nice little "hotbed" of practitioners on the UK who are also very supportive of new folks.
I will get my feet wet now and try out VN. I particularly like the idea that VN can be used to bypass the culture issue by focusing on the value-adding interactions. Knowledge-sharing is a byproduct of the process, not the objective. Knowledge is the asset, added-value the output.